Why Soft Skills Matter in Today's WorkplaceMar 07, 2023
A great attitude, leadership ability, a collaborative spirit—these are all things that any company would be lucky to find in an employee. And yet, they won’t show up in a GPA, an aptitude score, or a code test. “Soft skills,” as they’re known, might be difficult to measure, but they’re incredibly important in today’s workplace. Whether you have a three-person team or work for a multi-national corporation, I’d venture to bet your business would improve dramatically if your soft skills improved. Let me tell you what I mean.
What are soft skills anyway?
Broadly speaking, soft skills are those which help you engage with others in a way that promotes progress toward a goal. Soft skills, as opposed to hard skills, have more to do with your emotional quotient (EQ) than your intellectual quotient (IQ). They’re typically not obtained through formal education or training. For example, getting your PMP certification will help you develop the hard skills you need to manage projects, but it likely won’t teach you how to be empathetic to your team, to read the room, or to encourage teamwork. For that, you’d need soft skills.
Some examples of soft skills that are valuable for business professionals include:
- Strong work ethic
Because we live in such a metrics-driven culture, soft skills often fall by the wayside. At worst, they’re completely eclipsed by initiatives that put too much emphasis on the “what” of work and too little on the “how.”
While I’m all for developing new tactical abilities through professional development and training (in fact, it’s part of my job!), I caution you not to underestimate the importance of soft skills in the process. They’re more than touchy-feely nice-to-haves. Soft skills are worth cultivating in yourself and your team, and in today’s workplace, they make a real difference. Here’s how:
1. Soft skills differentiate you from others.
If you’ve ever been the recipient of a firm handshake or a thoughtful thank you note, you know that genuine, human interactions are memorable. Few of us have a true monopoly over the products and services we sell. Short of having an exclusive patent on a new technology, any number of competitors can do what your business does. That’s why soft skills can be an advantage. In a sea of sameness, be the IT consulting firm with the best communication, the marketing agency that makes its clients feel known and heard, or the most responsive financial advising team.
2. Most of the time, business happens between humans, not robots.
Sure, bots, whether in the form of the help chat on a website or the cookies fueling our ads, have become commonplace. At the end of the day, though, we’re all in the human-to-human business. On the other side of your sales pipeline are the faces of real, living, breathing people making decisions. This means, no sales algorithm or pitch technique will work 100 percent of the time because humans are messy and unpredictable. If you want a raise or a contract or a partnership, soft skills, like negotiation, eye contact, and a gut sense for the right timing will come in much more helpful than your perfect SAT score.
3. Soft skills provide job security.
Many of the job titles people held 50 years ago don’t even exist today. Think about the fact that tasks that were once entire jobs, like transcription, travel booking, and auto trading now all can be managed by apps on your phone. The forces of automation, global trade, and technological advancement have already changed the landscape of our economy—and they don’t appear to be stopping any time soon. In the wake of this change, hard skills tend to be more easily replicated by technology. Soft skills, however, that is, the things that make us human, are much more difficult to replace.
Next time you think a certification is more important than your kindness or your ability to read people, think again. While soft skills may be more difficult to measure, they’re no less valuable.
So much of my role with clients is giving them permission to embrace who they are, both online and offline. A great LinkedIn profile can capture both the hard and soft skills that you bring to the table. To take the guesswork out of making your profile shine, check out my free Rock Your LinkedIn Profile Guide. I’ll walk you through the steps to showcase your whole self in a professional light the right way.