Impressive resume…but no soft skills. Can solve a Rubik’s Cube with his toes…while blindfolded. Designed the landing gear for the InSight Mars spacecraft. Can’t talk his way out of a paper bag.
But if the genius can get us to Mars, does it really matter?
Well…more than likely…yes.
Look through want ads for most jobs, and the list of hard skills can be mind-blowing. “Must know this software, have that degree, meet this quota, analyze, generate, produce, yada yada….” Many sound like computer-generated searches for industry-specific robots.
No one would argue the importance of having the technical skills necessary for a given job. Hard skills come from education, certifications, training and experience, and are the link to those keywords you enter in your online job searches. They’re important. Essential. Hard-won.
But are they given too much priority in the hiring process?
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner would suggest they are. Recent research by LinkedIn found that interpersonal communications is an increasingly significant skill in businesses. It’s also the most lacking.
Too many companies hire on the merits of a candidate’s hard skills alone. They make the naive assumption that if the person can crunch the numbers, build the software or pare down company costs, they can handle the “soft stuff.” After all, people don’t have student loan debt from learning how to interact with others. That should just be a given…right?
To the contrary, those often overlooked, underappreciated soft skills can be the key to your company’s prosperity.
You may have spent a fortune to be able to throw around big words and acronyms with the elite in your industry. But can you communicate your vision to a potential client? Express empathy to a new employee feeling overwhelmed? Mediate and resolve an ongoing conflict that is costing your company time and money? Motivate your sales team to a new level of enthusiasm and creativity?
The idea of “soft skills” may conjure up images of weakness and lack of necessity. But these marshmallow attributes represent how people work and interact with others. They are the skills that, while less easily measured than hard skills, give rise to great problem-solvers, critical thinkers and leaders.
Anyone can choose a major tract of education and follow it through into a career of matched requirements and skill sets. But those skills keep people limited unless they learn new technical skills to advance or change their careers.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are transferable. They’re not limited to a specific industry or technical skill. They are the qualities that make the intuitive, wise leader say, “I want that person on my team.”
Where would you expect soft skills to shine? Think about every phone call you have made that has been derailed because of poor customer service. What did that singular experience do to your loyalty or trust in that company?
Now think of an experience in which a representative treated you with empathy and a willingness to see your concerns through to completion. What did that do to your loyalty and trust?
The ability to relate well to and communicate effectively with others is the backbone of true management. It can be the difference between holding onto great talent and manning a revolving door. It can improve satisfaction and morale across the board, foster creativity and innovation, and improve teamwork and performance.
Some things can be taught. Some things come with the package. As more progressive business models prove the benefits of individualizing expectations and rewards, those in leadership positions will need more than just an employee manual to guide them.
They will need the soft skills that are more necessary than ever if we are going to keep people at the helm of technology, and not the other way around. And they will need to hire and train outside the hard-skill box. If you would like some help developing soft skills within your company, we would love to help. You can reach us here.