Everyone in your organization has natural gifts and talents, but it’s easy to underestimate how valuable their abilities are. When employees are complimented on how well they handle a task or a project, they often dismiss it as just doing what they needed to do. Give a teammate credit for being a good listener, and that person may say anyone else would have done the same. Yet “soft” skills like these make a critical difference in the workplace.1
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are attributes and behaviors such as the ability to listen and show empathy, think creatively, or solve problems.2 They’re the opposite of “hard” technical skills that are learned, like the ability to code an app or measure a patient’s blood pressure. While these soft skills generally begin as a natural part of someone’s character, they can be encouraged and developed throughout life.
Most traditional schools focus on academic subjects and leave soft skills training to the students. You can find graduates with in-depth knowledge of business processes and technical details who were never encouraged to develop effective communication techniques, interpersonal skills, critical-thinking abilities, attention to detail or active learning mindsets.
Examples of Soft Skills
- Creativity: This in-demand soft skill keeps companies from becoming stagnant. “No matter what industry you are in, it is constantly changing,” says Mike Sheety, director at ThatShirt.com.3 “You need creative employees who bring new and exciting ideas.”
- Communication: Clear spoken and written communication is essential in the workplace. “If you are able to communicate effectively, I know we will be able to work through issues, problems and ideas and that you can do the same with others,” says Thomas R. Harris, owner of Radiant Hope, LLC and founder of The Exceptional Skills.4
- Leadership: Companies need strong leaders to provide direction as they pursue their goals. “Being a leader doesn’t come naturally to all,” says Sheety. “When I hire someone, I look at their possible career progression, and a lot of the time that will include some sort of leadership role.”
- Problem-solving: Employees in any work environment will run into obstacles. “You need to have people that can problem solve effectively and efficiently,” Sheety says. “These individuals can allow company progression and growth.”
Why They Matter
Soft skills may enhance an employee’s job performance and help bring about better results for the entire team. As a leader, you see these things firsthand. And you’re not alone. A survey from Cengage listed soft skills as being the most desirable in job candidates—and 73 percent of surveyed employers reported having trouble finding qualified candidates.5
Abby Guthrie, communications team leader at FindCourses.com, says, “Every soft skill that you develop will be something you will eventually draw on in your career.”6 Harris agrees: “If you don’t know how to be productive and manage your time effectively or know how to problem solve or make decisions, you aren’t going to be effective in your job.”