Cultivating empathy for more productive companies
In a progressively automated world, where tasks and jobs seem to rely more and more on technology and robotics, soft skills in workplace emerge as the new essential for the workplace. This article addresses the meaning of soft skills and why they are relevant in all industries. In addition, we will explore some tips to implement these strategies at a company.
Virtual collaboration, work at home and online education are already the rule and not the exception. There is no doubt that the way we do business in the 21st century is evolving, but no one knows what the results are going to be. The only thing that seems to be the common denominator in this ever changing world, is the ability to adapt. Here lies the unlocking potential of soft skills in the workplace.
After all, the real game changer may not be artificial intelligence but human intelligence and emotions. Soft skills feed from these two.
What are Soft Skills and What do They Mean in The Market
Hard skills remain as the measurable knowledge and specific abilities that companies search and evaluate amongst their candidates. So the logical definition is that soft skills are the opposite of those hard skills: more elusive, intangible qualities related to social interaction. In a nutshell, hard skills are about what the employee knows, and soft skills are about how he or she acts.
People, it seems, still have one commanding competitive advantage over technology: the ability to understand other people. To express empathy, communicate persuasively, and seek common ground in a manner that allows groups to agree on an action plan and, more important, to feel collectively invested in its success. (“The soft skills imperative”. Adecco whitepaper, 2017)
Remember the sci-fi classic Blade Runner? To distinguish replicants (androids) from humans, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) would apply an empathy questionnaire: the Voight-Kampff Test.
As evident as it is that we are not robots, we are starting to coexist with them. Healthy relationships and caring communication leads to better results not only in our personal lives, but also our worklife.
Soft Skills in the Workplace as a Career Must-have
The fast pace of disruption in business models has a direct impact on hard skills. Across almost every field the impact of technological changes shorten the lifespan of employee’s existing skills. It’s even happening in unexpected activities, like the IT industry. There are no guarantees.
(“2017 Tech Career Outlook”, by Spiceworks)
According to the World Economic Forum, by year 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to those jobs today – while soft skills in the workplace will be in higher demand than the narrow technical ones.
Let’s study soft skills in depth, one by one.
A List of Top Ten Soft Skills to Take Into Account
The election of the most important soft skills tend to vary from authors to authors. We have made our own top 10 list based on the research and experiences our clients share with us.
Paying careful attention to another person is one of the most valuable – yet underrated – things one can do. It must never be taken for granted; a good listener shows interest, asks questions and does not interrupt. After all, listening is the oldest way to collect and learn information.
Good listening is the key to proper communication. The ability to explain things to others in a clear and concise manner is very important. It does not only apply to verbal expressions but to writing as well. Everyone benefits from clearly crafted emails, presentations and reports.
Completing a task satisfactorily, it’s as simple as that. It involves being accountable not only when things go well, but also when something don’t go as planned. Assuming mistakes and learning from them instead of blaming other co-workers is a sign of maturity, and it should be promoted.
Those with ability to communicate and motivate others while approaching to more efficient solutions may emerge as natural leaders. The flattening of traditional hierarchy pyramids should encourage employees to take charge and drive to overall success.
The process of teamwork is as important as leadership. It smoothes workflow while reinforcing the sense of belonging. Solid players who manage to become valuable team members are definitely worth retaining.
Given the already mentioned importance of adaptation, being flexible on changes emerges as a great asset for any employee – at any step in the pyramid. The desire of learning and continuous improvement can be seen as flexibility, too.
It’s easy to understand the high value of this soft skill, yet it would deserve an article by itself. Effective leaders and team workers tend to understand conflict and develop smart strategies to get the best result possible in a given situation, as uncomfortable as it may be.
Organized employees are those who manage to coordinate their schedule, plan and prioritize tasks and even thoughts in an efficient way. An organized person is able to be more productive and efficient in the workplace.
The ability to form a judgement after carefully assessing a situation is key to a successful outcome. Resourceful, solving problems oriented personalities often show this skill in a variety of situations.
This isn’t about being artistic but about finding solutions in innovative ways. It’s a common mistake to see creativity as the exact opposite of critical thinking as they complement one another. Facts and figures are good materials to nurture creativity.
We have added two extra soft skills in the workplace for consideration:
Being punctual is much more that arriving to the office on time; it’s about being able to deliver the work in a proper and timely manner.
An Easygoing Personality
Being friendly may be the only soft skill that can’t be trained. All of the above (even creativity!) can be improved at least at a certain degree.
How to Strengthen Soft Skills in the Workplace at Companies
The nature of soft skills seems rather emotional. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to explain to someone how to operate a machine or to fix a piece of code than teaching work ethics and proper manners. Nevertheless, there are certain rules and exercises that can be applied. We suggest the following:
Lead by Example. Since we are brought into this world and whether we like it or not, humans tend to copy good and bad behavior .
“The company culture and work environment you establish as a manager play a huge role in encouraging (or discouraging) the development of these skills. If you want employees to work hard and collaborate with each other, you need to show them how first”
(Nicole Fallon, “Soft Skills Matter: Can They Be Taught?” at Business News Daily)
Take Staff Onboarding Seriously. Investing time in teaching a new hire the company work ethics will pay off. Make sure that the onboarding process includes it, since it’s as important as stating the company goals.
Name and Explain. Choose the most important soft skills for the company and define them clearly. It’s crucial to explain employees that they are important to empower their own careers.
Practice. Give directions and exercises to achieve those skills. Simple games like role playing can be enlightening as well as funny; there are hundreds of courses and resources to learn soft skills. Take time to investigate and choose the ones that are suitable for the company.
Recognize Progress. Promote excellence at soft skills as much as with hard skills. Changing old habits requires a conscious effort and it should be rewarded. An employee’s recognition tool like StarMeUp can be very useful, especially for busy managers.
As we have seen, soft skills are a matter of productivity at any industry level. They smooth workflow, reinforce the sense of belonging and give overall satisfaction to everybody. The companies that nurture these kind of abilities will have a competitive advantage that sets them apart from competition.