The so-called “soft skills” have become the main subject of discussion across the world only recently. The reason behind their active discussion and comparison with the so-called “hard skills” is the qualitative change taking place in the conceptualization of how business is done. Nowadays, doing business entails both internal teamwork and collaboration with external companies. As it turns out, simply possessing technical knowledge and skills in one field is no longer enough for the modern employee.
For starters, let’s break down these terms.
Hard skills – knowledge, abilities, and skills pertaining to a specific profession. These are learned in the university and are listed as obligatory in job descriptions and employee-search announcements.
- Knowledge of the English language;
- Mastery of bookkeeping and accounting programs;
- The ability to create a business plan;
- Computer skills;
- Planning skills;
- Mathematical skills.
Soft skills – personal qualities pertaining to interpersonal relationships with colleagues, partners, and competitors. These skills are shaped over the course of upbringing, training, and personal experience.
- Time management;
- Stress tolerance;
Generally speaking, hard skills help with getting the job that one desires, while soft skills ensure effective functioning in one’s position. It’s often the case that one and the same sphere of operations requires the use of both types of skills simultaneously in order to achieve maximum results. To cite a few examples:
- Hard skills – knowing the technical side of one’s job/assignment.
- Soft skills – being able to inspire, motivate and create a positive atmosphere; being able to respect, guide, encourage, and delicately address shortcomings.
- Hard skills – the ability to use modern online communication tools (programs and messenger services).
- Soft skills – being able to clearly and consistently express one’s thoughts, delicately and respectfully insist on one’s point of view in discussions, and being able to listen and make one’s opponent feel that they are important.
- Hard skills – ensuring the technical side of team communication and using all available tools for such.
- Soft skills – being an effective team player, maintaining communication, respectfully treating other team members, and sticking to deadlines.
Underdeveloped Soft Skills are the #1 Problem in Modern Business
In April 2018, the professional social network, LinkedIn, conducted a large-scale study, the results of which led to the conclusion that soft skills are the weakest link in employee training in more than 100 major cities across America. The report determined that the four most sought-after skills are leadership, communication, cooperation, and time management.
In an interview with CNBC, LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner said:
“Somewhat surprisingly – as some people may not realize – interpersonal skills is where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance. Communication is the number one skills gap.”
On the very same matter, in an article published by Forbes, the certified coach, trainer, author of popular books on personal growth, and founder of Redcaperevolution.com, Darcy Eikenberg, shared that her experience in training leaders and teams has revealed several key factors that often hinder people from applying soft skills in their work:
- Soft skills require that we make decisions – and be wrong. Yet many people are afraid to make mistakes, insofar such can mean losing one’s job or incurring heavy losses.
Possible resolution: company leaders should encourage faster decision-making among employees, and mistakes should be treated as useful experiences, not as reasons for punishment.
- Soft skills require that we take risks. Most employees are afraid to take risks since risks mean a 50/50 chance of winning or losing, and the focus of corporate motives is always only on winning.
Resolution: company leaders should accept the fact that risks are a natural part of any work process and, most importantly, employees should be allowed to take risks without fearing reprimand for failure.
- Soft skills require time. The point is not for employees to be machines, but ordinary people who carry out technical tasks that are part of the larger, important business process.
Resolution: company leaders need to gradually move away from “always on” expectations toward their subordinates. Employees should be involved in technical processes and gain experience in order to shape their soft skills.
In the history of humanity, as it’s being made today, we can think of one fashionable example of when bets were hedged only on hard skills – only for such to turn out to be a big mistake. The famous billionaire, Elon Musk, did not hesitate to write about this on Twitter:
“Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”
Machines don’t have soft skills; only people do, and they should not be underestimated.
How to Train Hard Skills and Soft Skills
In order to prevent innovative technology from taking over your work sooner or later, the important trump card to have in your hand is unique, dignified soft skills that can compete with robots. This is no joke, given the all too real expert forecasts on the automation of business in the very near future. But hard skills shouldn’t be forgotten either; they are, after all, the foundation.
How can you gain new knowledge and skills?
- Training and coaching programs;
- Online personal growth courses;
- Master classes;
- Corporate training programs;
- Most importantly, real-life experience!
- Technical/vocational schools;
- Thematic online courses;
- Master classes;
- Qualification-boosting courses;
- Most importantly, practical experience!
To conclude today’s analysis of skills, we’d like to cite the opinion of Kevin Johnson, the CEO of one of the most popular online education platforms in the world, Udemy. Here’s what Johnson highlighted in an article for Forbes: curiosity and lifelong learning are the most important fuel for a successful career.
We’re interested in hearing from you: How do you evaluate your skill levels? What do you have more of: soft skills or hard skills? What do you do to achieve and maintain balance?