The current era is a challenging professional time to be entering the workforce. The age old path followed by the parents of the youngsters today – get a couple of college degrees or learn a professional and technical skill, then get a relevant job and stay in the same place for an entire career – is obsolete and no longer viable. Most of the people aspiring to join the current workforce must not only specialize in particular job-related skill sets, but will also need to upskill and cross skill as they move jobs – and even industries – frequently in their careers.
This new workforce, then, needs a broad mix of skills for career and business success. Businesses which hire a more diversely skilled workforce will have higher rates of innovation and overall productivity, and will be far more likely to succeed in the world of tomorrow. These days, a college degree or even two, isn’t necessarily enough of a tool to bring you instant and sustained success in the professional world. Neither will years of hands on experience in your job make it so, unless you add that little bit extra.
The simple reason for this is that the currently highest in-demand skills sought by employers are “soft skills”. Also known today as employability skills, soft skills are enterprise and human connect skills and translate well across industries and occupations. These include essential cooperative skills like communication and teamwork, as well as managerial and leadership skills such as problem solving, emotional judgement, professional ethics, global citizenship, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. Companies like Google are currently screening for something called “learning ability,” and this trend is only going to continue as more and more businesses realise the advantage a good soft-skill trained team gives them.
Key industry experts and detailed data analysed by Deloitte Access Economics, for example shows that the international demand for soft skills is growing, and will continue to grow as technology, globalisation and demographic shifts shape a new world of businesses competition. Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, growing at the rate of 2.5 times greater than any other jobs requiring other skills. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management has also found that employers are beginning to care more about a prospective employee’s soft skills than about technical abilities. Research from Harvard University shows that 85% of job success – already – comes from these skills and only 15% from technical skills. A study from MIT Sloan found that training in these skills can improve individual and organizational productivity. Similarly, in an internal study, Google discovered that their highest performing teams were those that consisted of individuals who are strong in such skills, including good communication, collaboration, and empathetic leadership. Deloitte reported soft skills are becoming so important that by 2030, around 2/3 of all job roles will require soft skill intensive employees.
These kinds of skills facilitate human connections, build relationships, bring visibility to the business, and more and more employers are recognising the importance of harnessing these broader benefits through these skills in their employees. Simply put, in today’s world, you can be the best at your technical subject, but if you don’t develop adequate soft skills then you’re limiting your chances of future career success. The workplace has not just changed in the last ten years; it has become unrecognisable. Jobs in the current corporate set-up, and the skill requirements for future managers for these roles, have shifted. Hard skills such as your technical knowledge, and education, are still important, of course, but these skills are the invaluable edge that will set you apart from the rest.
Building the critical soft skills that are needed and will continue to be essential to succeed in the modern workplace are crucial now. These non-technical and non-educational skills will contribute greatly towards any future success that you desire. In the last decade or so, in the corporate world, it has become absolutely clear just how important soft skills have become in order to stay relevant and achieve success in the changing workplace. Communication, the ability to work as part of a team to overcome difficulties, listening mindfully and empathising with others, such characteristics have suddenly become as important as your qualifications and technical knowledge. Even in highly technical roles such as IT, future professionals who have a vast knowledge of their subjects will still find it difficult to get hired, unless they are also adept in the complementary soft skills.
In 2015, a research by The Development Economics research group, UK, found that soft skills have enormous economic value including the prevention of losses for any business which are caused by the lack of key soft skills in their employees. Such a lack causes increased operating costs, results in loss of business to competitors, causes problems in meeting quality standards, and engenders delays in bringing in or innovating new products and services. It is clear, then, that soft skills are not really ‘soft’ after all, and have become an ‘essential’ requirement for businesses and their hires. It would not be overstating to call them ‘power skills’ instead, special cutting edge tools that will differentiate you from competitors.