Soft skills in the workplace: Why they matter

Gone are the days when a strong repertoire of technical skills guaranteed a job offer. Employers are now beginning to recognise the significance of a well-rounded skill set that encompasses both technical expertise and soft skills.

And it’s not just about recruiting employees with the right transferable skills. Employers are also focusing on upskilling workers to address the social and emotional skills that are in high demand.

These interpersonal and emotional intelligence capabilities can make all the difference in a job application and in an employee’s professional development, yet they are often misunderstood, underestimated, and undervalued. So, let’s begin by understanding what they are and why they are in such high demand.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personal traits and abilities that determine how well you work, collaborate and communicate with others. Whilst hard skills showcase one's expertise and technical knowledge, soft skills encompass a broader range of interpersonal and emotional intelligence capabilities.

Increasingly, recruiters are searching for these skills to determine whether a candidate can create a collaborative work environment, bring out the best in others, regulate emotions, and complete tasks on time and with creativity.

Some of the most in-demand soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Willingness to learn
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Problem Solving
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership

So where do soft skills fit in and are they as important? Some recent studies shed light on their significance in today's job market:

Why are soft skills more in demand than ever?

As more and more job activities become automated, soft skills, which cannot yet be replicated by machines, have become highly sought after by employees.

These “softer skills” have become crucial success factors and their scarcity among candidates has made them highly sought after by employers.

According to Forbes, there are three main reasons why they are becoming just as important as hard skills:

  • Soft skills provide career longevity: Technical proficiency may get your foot in the door, but soft skills help you advance your professional development and perform your tasks successfully.
  • They’re highly transferable: Technical skills constantly change, but soft skills remain with you throughout your career. These skills can be applied in a variety of settings as they aren't specific to any job or industry.
  • They’re essential for remote work: To succeed in the post-pandemic world, remote workers need strong interpersonal skills and be self-motivated, adaptable, and time-management savvy.

Which soft skills will be most important in the future?

With the ever-increasing integration of artificial intelligence in the workplace, nearly every job is poised to undergo change.

However, whilst AI excels in tasks requiring technical expertise and efficiency, it falls short in areas that require human touch, emotional intelligence, and complex decision-making. This that in the future workplace, those who excel will be individuals who cultivate soft skills that encompass their thinking, work approach, and interpersonal relationships.

LinkedIn named the top essential soft skills for the future of work as critical thinking, judgment and complex decision-making, emotional intelligence and empathy, creativity, and collaboration.

Global talent shortages have also partly been attributed to employers struggling to find candidates who possess the ideal mix of technical expertise and soft skills. This means that employers are likely to seek individuals who can demonstrate the above will have a competitive advantage.

Final thoughts

Whilst technical expertise remains essential, there is an undeniable shift in the professional landscape that demands the recognition and development of soft skills. These skills alone cannot qualify you for a job, but when paired with solid credentials, they can make you a much more attractive candidate.

Jobseekers must recognise the importance of highlighting their soft skills alongside their qualifications and technical abilities. With many applicants possessing similar credentials, emphasising soft skills can make them more marketable and give them a competitive edge.

It is also crucial for recruiters and employers to prioritise candidates who possess a combination of both technical and soft skills to ensure their success in the rapidly evolving world of work. Ultimately, these transferable skills not only enhance job performance but also act as a bridge, allowing individuals to fill any gaps in technical expertise as they continue to learn and advance in their careers.

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