The accelerated implementation of artificial intelligence is changing the workforce. Logically, this has left many workers worried about the possibility of their positions being automated. While fear is justified, there is one area of skills that artificial intelligence and robots lack. This is something that is still highly valued in the workplace: soft or interpersonal skills. Soft skills or hard skills? This is the question!
What makes soft skills so important? Naz Beheshti wrote an interesting article for Forbes magazine, in which he reviews a research of competencies in more than 200 companies and organizations around the world. The research found that emotional intelligence was twice as important as technical and cognitive ability to distinguish the best performers in job interviews. In senior management positions, it was four times more important.
Soft skills have become the new currency in the digital age as technology changes the way we work.
On the other hand, Dylan Walsh analyzes an MIT Sloan study that found that soft skills training, even in a factory environment, can improve labor productivity in an organization. Faced with this reality, it is worth asking: if soft skills are so important, why do so many organizations overlook developing them?
To help you improve your employees’ productivity, let’s look at four soft skills needed and how they can be improved. But first, let’s see what these skills are.
Soft skills vs hard skills: what are their differences
In this section we will see the difference between soft and hard skills. Or, in other words, soft skills vs. hard skills.
Soft skills are the so-called interpersonal skills. Therefore, we can say that soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, social cues, and communication skills necessary to ensure success at work.
Interpersonal skills define how a person interacts in their relationships with others. They are similar to the emotions and ideas that allow people to “read” their fellow human beings. therefore, they cannot be measured quantitatively and are difficult to evaluate objectively.
Some examples of soft skills are the following: attitude, adaptability, communication, teamwork, decision making, positivity, critical thinking, etc.
So what differentiates soft skills from hard skills?
Hard skills refers to technical or specific knowledge useful for performing a job. These can be obtained through a good education or constant learning. For example, a hard or difficult skill for an IT professional would be programming languages.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are acquired more by interacting with others and gaining experience of such interaction. However, there are educational programs and MOOCs that give you guidelines for learning these skills. So I’m going to include an online course that helps you boost each of these skills.
Of course, the only thing that guarantees the learning of these skills is your environment and the way you acquire experience through your interaction with the circumstances around you.
Did you understand what soft skills are and how it differs from a hard skill? Excellent! Now we are going to address four important essential skills in the world of work and how to acquire them.
4 Essential Soft Skills in the Internet Age
Next, the soft skills that will lead your team to give the best results.
1. Which of the soft skills gives us elasticity in the face of change? Adaptability
Abigail Hess cites that, according to LinkedIn, adaptability was listed as one of the 5 most in-demand soft skills in 2019. Industries, technologies, and organizations are changing at breakneck speed, so this demand makes a lot of sense. In that sense, the essence of adaptability is to be flexible and accept change. Employees who can’t go with the flow are likely to be left behind.
Fear of failure is a key reason why people don’t accept change. They feel comfortable where they are and become experts of what they know. So when a change occurs, they may feel frustrated, anxious, and even angry. Therefore, the most important thing you can do to develop adaptability in your employees is to cultivate a culture that allows room for error.
From Google to Intuit , some of the most innovative companies celebrate failure because it encourages employees to step out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes. Leaving room for failure gives employees the confidence to try something new. It also helps them adapt to an ever-changing business environment that positively positions them for the future.
What course helps you understand how adaptability helps you succeed in your life and in your work?
The future is up to you. This is the name of a free course from La Telefónica’s educational platform, Miriadax. Professors Federico Gutiérrez-Solana, Leandro Fernandez, Luisa Rosiach, Olga Conde and Raquel Gutiérrez will give you all the necessary tools to know your brain and use emotional intelligence to your advantage.
2. Communication: one of the soft skills that do not go out of style
Communication often tops the list of most desired soft skills. However, the skills gap for this competition is still quite large. The gap is even bigger with millennials. If you can’t trust the next generation of workers to narrow this gap, what can you do about it?
I can assure you that the best way to learn to communicate is to practice communication. For this reason, I advise you to assign mentors to younger workers so they can learn interpersonal communication from someone who does it well. Face-to-face interaction is vital to developing important communication skills.
Another way to develop communication would be to encourage the use of discussion forums. Even if you are in an online training. Although it is in a digital environment, the platform provides a place for people to interact and communicate in a professional environment. It’s also important for entry-level employees who may lack formal writing experience.
Which online course is important to improve this skill?
The communication coach José María Enríquez has an excellent course in Tutellus where he teaches you how to combat stage fright. The course is called “Become an excellent communicator speaking in public” and, in addition, it teaches you to master all the vocal techniques of oratory and non-verbal communication.
You can take this course to strengthen your soft interpersonal communication skills. But you can also use it to train your staff in this area.
Problems are an inevitable part of life and work is no exception. By the way, let me tell you an anecdote about a co-worker when a few years ago he was working for a major telecommunications multinational. If you want to skip this story, continue reading in paragraph five of this section.
Martín Contreras (not his real name for ethical reasons) was a field operations supervisor in the same business unit where I worked. In my years as an operations supervisor at various companies, I didn’t meet anyone like him. Every month… I’ve said every month! comply with all your KPIs. His team was always among the first in quality, productivity, efficient use of materials and other measurable metrics. In fact, while the rest of the team had to work overtime to meet our metrics, Martin and his team always culminate in their schedule, even earlier.
But Martin had a serious problem: when he had a conflict with his superiors he was very angry and did not have effective communication with his superiors. He wanted to assert his opinion with bravado. For a long time they endured that lack… But one day the administration decided to dispense with his services. Thanks to his good numbers, Martin got a job almost immediately in the competition. Now as field operations manager.
After three years of giving the best results, his contract was canceled for the same reason as the previous job. Martin’s story is real. In fact, there are hundreds of Martins in your city, whose lack of communication and conflict resolution overshadows their competitive advantages.
In that sense, every organization has the need to solve problems in a solid way. Recruiters surveyed by the Financial Times ranked complex problem solving as one of the top five soft skills MBA graduates need and one of the hardest to find.
One way to help students develop problem-solving skills is to offer game-based learning. It’s hard to become good at solving problems if you never face problems. Challenging games give employees the opportunity to test their decision-making skills in a safe and risk-free environment.
Not only do games allow employees to practice solving a problem, but they also allow you to better track how they find a solution.
Through games, you can get information about the journey students take to solve a problem. Then, you can address the specific areas where they are missing from the decision-making process.
For those who are like Martín, Professor Carmen Ojeda published the MOOC entitled “Learn to solve conflicts and discrepancies“. 216 Digital Learners have already enrolled in this course, whose rating is 5 stars.
4. Time management: if you master this skill, you will increase your productivity
We all have 24 hours a day, but some workers will have a harder time managing their hours than others. Before working toward a solution, it’s important to talk to your employees and understand why they don’t manage their time well.
Are they overworked or inefficient? Understanding the difference in this issue will affect how you approach a solution. But it is important that you think about the answer to this question. Employees who lack soft time management skills generally don’t know how to prioritize their work.
If time management is an issue, set up weekly meetings with your team and ask them about their workload. That way, you can understand what the root of the problem is. If they respond to requests from more than one boss, it can be difficult for them to distinguish between who screams the most and what’s more important. This makes them wonder: What criteria should they use to discern priority? Which undoubtedly adds stress – and inefficiency – to your work.
Set criteria for your team to understand what’s important and time-dependent. Work with them to schedule tasks based on priority, so they focus their time in the right places. Once you’ve helped them understand what’s important, set deadlines to avoid procrastination, and provide accountability for the work to get done.
Social entrepreneur and lecturer Oscar Pérez Marcos has a course entitled “A Path to the Soul: Life Purpose and Time Management”. Oscar uses Storytelling and other tools to help you connect better and seek the meaning of your life.
Don’t you think it’s the first thing we need to do to achieve proper time management?
It is no longer enough to focus training on hard skills and techniques. Today, soft skills are also more imperative than ever.
75% of long-term job success depends on mastery of social skills and only 25% of technical skillsAmerican Management Association (AMA)
Finally, soft skills are like muscles: they only get stronger when they are worked. Include skills as part of employees’ personal goals and professional development. Track employee progress and provide feedback and recognition for improvements. If you are disciplined about making those soft skills more flexible, the results will come sooner than expected.
After reading this text to the end, if we were to decide a match between soft skills vs. hard skills, which one do you think is more important for professional development? Come on, answer without fear, join the conversation!