- What I’m Listening To: NPR. Every. Single. Morning.
- What I’m Watching: His Dark Materials on HBO and The Last Kingdom on Netflix.
It’s time we started to recognize the true value and importance of soft skills, or non-technical skills in the workplace. Today’s employees cannot rely on technical skills alone, but will need an impressive bank of soft skills as well. The term soft skills is somewhat misleading, as critical thinking, consensus building, persuasive writing, effective interpersonal skills, and teamwork are not skills that are simply nice to have but are necessary in today’s workplace.
These skills are also among the top qualifications that employers look for in potential employees. In fact, it is often these skills that differentiate one candidate from another during the recruitment process. Recognizing their importance, soft skills are often referred to as power skills. In order to be successful, employees need to develop a hybrid skill set of both technical and non-technical skills.
As our organizations become more diverse, soft skills become even more important in improving employee retention, developing strong leaders, and creating a positive organizational culture. Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000.
Simply being technically competent is not enough anymore.
Without strong interpersonal skills, an expert in any field will not succeed. Think about the last presentation you heard at a council meeting or a public open house. The most persuasive speakers are those who can easily explain and communicate difficult ideas and concepts without losing their audience.
Think about your favorite supervisor. Did she simply tell the team what to do and when? Or was she someone who challenged you to think creatively and helped the team work collaboratively. Was she someone who listened to staff and their ideas? Effective managers are those who listen, encourage collaboration, and inspire creativity.
In 2017, Google published the findings of an internal study (Project Aristotle) that evaluated teams across the company to determine which were the most innovative and productive. Google found that its best teams weren’t the ones with top scientists. Instead, the highest performing teams were interdisciplinary groups that benefited from employees who brought strong soft skills to the collaborative process. Project Aristotle demonstrated that the best teams at Google exhibited a range of soft skills such as equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of others, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying.
To succeed, each team member felt confident speaking up and making mistakes. They knew they were being heard.
Like Google, we often use cross-departmental teams in local government. We encourage staff members with varying expertise, backgrounds, and skill sets to work together on projects and problems. However, it is just as important that we continue to refine and develop our professional skills. As our workforce changes and the needs of our residents, communities, and organizations evolve, our soft skills, just as our technology, may need to evolve.
We must be flexible and open to growing, learning, and changing. It takes conscious effort, ongoing practice, and a commitment to self-development to improve and develop these skills. Look for opportunities and projects that will help you grow both personally and professionally and identify workshops, training, and webinars that will allow you to continue to grow your skill set.