What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important?

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important

When my brother-in-law, a forensic psychologist, asked me, “What are soft skills?” I knew what he was really asking. He wanted my interpretation of the phrase. Most people are thinking same, they’ve heard the term and even used it, but are not sure what others mean by the phrase. It’s important that we know what are soft skills and why are they important to leadership, business, and professional development. Instead of assuming, let’s get some clarification, especially sense I talk about soft skills so much.

Soft Skills Background

The term “soft skills” first was used by the U.S. Army when attempting to clarify the skills needed outside of hard skills. After many attempts in clarification, they finally defined soft skills as, “Soft skills are important job-related skills that involve little or no interaction with machines and whose application on the job is quite generalized.” Once this definition was released in 1972, soft skills began to circulate in other industries.

Current Soft Skills In The Workforce Epidemic

Over recent years, soft skills have become a much more important topic in business as leaders believe the workforce is experiencing a skills gap, specifically with soft skills. According Adecco Staffing USA, 92 percent of senior executives believe there is a skills gap within the workforce and 44 percent believe the primary skills lacking are soft skills.

The famous adage goes, “You get hired for hard skills, but get fired for soft skills.” The current soft skills gap in the workforce has not closed in recent years and does not indicate any signs of this trend reversing. Businesses are stuck in a soft skills dilemma. They want their employees to possess these skills, but are reluctant to train or develop them in their employees.

Businesses have a valid point. Should they really be one’s responsible for developing young talent’s soft skills? Probably not, but that really doesn’t matter, right? The past responsibility is of no significance to the current situation. If businesses need employees with softs skills, but they do not possess them, they can keep on hiring until they find the right talent or learn how to train employees in soft skill development.

Whatever the case, businesses are still facing a major skills gap issue.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are largely accepted as personality traits, interpersonal skills, social skills, emotional intelligence (EQ), and more that drive people to operate. They typically compliment hard skills to help people accomplish goals and/or objectives.

Putting soft skills in laymen’s terms, they are the non-technical, often hard to visualize skills. They are also called intangible skills at times.

Instead of continuing to define soft skills, let’s give you some examples of soft skills.

Example of Personality Traits

  1. Focused
  2. Driven
  3. Decisive
  4. Determined
  5. Trusting
  6. Optimistic
  7. Consistent
  8. Stable
  9. Cautious
  10. Logical
  11. Flexible

Examples of Interpersonal Skills

  1. Inspiring
  2. Trusting
  3. Supportive
  4. Diplomatic
  5. Collaborative
  6. Friendly
  7. Patient
  8. Personable
  9. Nurturing
  10. Encouraging

Examples of Social Skills

  1. Accepting
  2. Perceptive
  3. Communication
  4. Listening
  5. Engaging
  6. Open-Minded
  7. Confidence
  8. Calm
  9. Agressive
  10. Dominant

Examples of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Awareness

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

You might have a better understanding of soft skills through these examples, but it is just as crucial to understand why soft skills are important.

In opposition to hard skills, training and development of soft skills is not easy or clear cut. Since soft skills are hard to recognize or notice, leaders have a difficult time narrowing down the tactic and strategy to developing these skills.

This makes the possession of soft skills so much more important. It’s simple supply and demand. If something is difficult to possess or learn, then those that possess a high level of these skills will be in high demand.

Outside of rationalizing the importance of soft skills, the ability to be more productive because of soft skills is important to recognize. People who possess a high level of soft skills are more successful. They sell better, get promotions, handle people well, communicate effectively, and are just overall more important than those that lack soft skills.

A person with soft skills are more likely to rise above the rest. Businesses want talent that rise to the top. Businesses thirst for those employees, managers, and executives that sit atop the crowd and succeed.

Soft Skills Needed In Business

Business leaders could be looking for a new manager or a new employee and you can be guaranteed that the people to get the job or promotion stand out. Businesses are still involved in the war on talent. No growing business would rather take a lower waged employee over a highly productive employee. Businesses need the best. Soft skills make employees the best.

With all the soft skills laid out on the table, it is the social skills and self-regulation skills that will rise talent to the top. Some of the basic soft skills needed in business are communication, responsibility, critical thinking, and resiliency. Of course those are just a few, but if you need to start anywhere, I would start there.

Soft Skills For Millennials

Of course millennials will not be left out in my writing. Millennials need soft skills to get hired, promoted, or succeed. While a large majority of millennials are still lacking in soft skills, they still need them.

There are many things to blame for millennials not possessing soft skills, but millennials still need them. There isn’t a larger group in the world that lack soft skills as much as millennials. If millennials realize this shortcoming, then should see the importance of stepping up and taking on the task of developing their softs skills.

Millennials who take on the personal responsibility of developing their set of soft skills, will rise quickly in their career and succeed. Those that wait until someone invests into their soft skill development may still be waiting while other millennials pass them by.

Millennials need soft skills. They need to grow in their soft skills to succeed in their careers.