Soft skills are what humans use to interact with one another, read other people, and emotionally navigate situations. From customer service to marketing to managing people, many business interactions rely on soft skills. A workforce well-versed in soft skills can give a company a competitive edge as both an employer and in the marketplace.
In almost every industry, technology is disrupting how people work. The rise of AI, apps, and machines in the workplace is automating routine, repetitive tasks that are more efficiently handled by algorithms, and allowing employees to focus on work that demands ‘people skills.’
Also known as soft skills, these are the attributes of an employee’s emotional intelligence that enables them to play well with others.
Important soft skills for business success include:
Adaptability: The ability to be flexible and open to change for learning and growth
Collaboration: Effectively contribute to a diverse team
Critical thinking: Inquiry, resourcefulness, and creativity in problem-solving
Communication: The ability to effectively convey and receive information
Emotional awareness: Possess empathy and tools for conflict resolution
Accountability: Fulfill responsibilities, always follow through, and accept responsibility
As people shift towards careers that require highly developed soft skills, HR managers must adjust their approach to this increasingly people-centric workplace.
That means redefining roles, creating new jobs, and upskilling current workers. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, “organizations must redesign jobs to focus on finding the human dimension of work.”
As part of their organizational development, companies need to develop and strengthen soft skills in every employee, from frontline workers to the C-Suite, in order to maximize productivity and success.
Leverage Technology to Develop Soft Skills in Every Employee
It’s easy to connect with desk-based employees in a company, but 80% of the global workforce are frontline employees — mobile workers with limited access to internal communications. An employee app levels the playing field, giving everyone the ability to connect and engage. It’s a tool that facilitates interpersonal skills in the workplace by:
Providing workers with two-way communication. This allows them to learn how to effectively communicate with one another and with leadership, and engage in meaningful dialogue that increases their job satisfaction, boosts engagement, and brings more value to the organization.
Creating opportunities for collaboration between colleagues, which is the most important soft skill in building an innovative workforce. Seamless, immediate communication between teams increases participation and ups productivity.
Giving employees greater opportunities to flex their creative cortex by asking for ideas or solutions. Employees, especially frontline workers, have a unique vantage point and can provide valuable insight into customer service or operational issues. And when employees feel their contribution is valued they are empowered, and five times more likely to go above and beyond for the company.
Building a channel for accountability. Inclusion through an employee app makes workers feel valued. They’ll realize the impact their role has on the company. As a result, they will feel a greater sense of commitment and accountability to the overall mission and team.
When MediaMarkt, Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer, needed to digitally connect their employees across Europe to streamline communications, they wanted to also maintain, and strengthen, the interpersonal connections its staff and customers relied on.
With a mobile employee app, the company provides fast and efficient communication that enhances their team’s people skills. As employees began to engage with one another, collaboration increased, idea sharing increased innovation, while both customer service and the employee experience significantly improved.
Soft Skills Are an Engagement Booster
Technical skills connect workers to the physical function of their jobs. Soft skills build an emotional connection between workers and their jobs, the company, and colleagues. Developing an employee’s soft skills creates an environment of belonging and purpose. In other words, soft skills increase employee engagement, a factor which is known to directly impact business outcomes, like productivity.
While soft skills might initially seem hard to measure on their own, their effects reverberate across an organization with hard data to back them up. Increased engagement, which can be tracked with an employee app’s real-time analytics dashboard, is the first indicator that soft skills are a good business strategy.
As engagement goes up employee life cycles are extended, creating a dedicated, productive workforce. According to one MIT study, companies that rate highly for employee experience and engagement are twice as innovative and more than 26% more profitable than their competition.
The Most Innovative Employees Have High Emotional IQs
If any company is good at crunching data it’s Google. In its early years, the company hired employees with algorithms, narrowing their candidate pool by their GPA and technical skills. Then, in 2013, they conducted an internal study to find out which employees were most successful in terms of productivity and innovation.
Turns out the top seven qualities of the company’s best performing and most innovative employees were soft skills. In a bold move, Google reinvented how, and who, it hired, opening their positions up to candidates with non-technical degrees, like arts and humanities.
Soft Skills are Reinventing Recruiting and Retention
92% of the 5,000 companies surveyed for LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends reported that soft skills are equally, or even more, important than hard skills when recruiting new employees. HR managers need to develop strategies for recruiting and retention specific to this human-driven workplace. If a company has a reputation for putting people first, they will attract the right candidates from the start. People are looking for more than a paycheck: they want meaningful work, a supportive environment, and human connections.
Two reasons to look for people skills in candidates are:
Employees with strong interpersonal skills are going to need less hand-holding. They will have the confidence to be self-starters and collaborators. Managers can delegate projects to these employees with less oversight and more time to dedicate to bigger projects.
When searching for candidates for management-level jobs, it’s always best to recruit from within. If HR hires candidates with strong soft skills, those employees will have the innate ability to grow and learn within the company, the qualities a leader needs to be successful.
To prioritize soft skills in the workplace, leaders must model the desired qualities for employees, and a company’s culture needs to prioritize them. Building an emotionally intelligent workforce is the best business decision a company can make today.