5 Essential Soft Skills in the Workplace

Essential soft skills

Soft skills in the workplace matter. Not only do candidates need training, knowledge and technical skills, they must also be able to problem-solve, communicate and get along with others to succeed in a modern workplace. Those intangible qualities that focus on behaviour, personal traits and cognitive capabilities may be more important now than ever.

According to Deloitte, 90% of organisations are redesigning roles, with “hybrid jobs” in the highest demand; these roles marry technical skills with “soft” skills in areas such as communication, service and collaboration. The World Economic Forum finds that more than one-third of the skills (35%) considered important in today’s workforce will have changed within five years, with soft skills in the workplace becoming more important. And traits like adaptability are in high demand as businesses adjust their operations to embrace remote work and other hybrid workplace models.

With unemployment reaching worrying highs, many job seekers may look to leverage these transferable, people-centred capabilities to make career transitions. So which ones do candidates need to succeed? Keep an eye out for applicants with these five essential soft skills:

Soft skill 1: Empathy 

While not usually associated with the workplace, empathy is one of the most important soft skills people need both in work and in life. Empathy helps you read people and situations; adapt accordingly; build trust; and connect more effectively. It’s also good for business: Company cultures that encourage empathy attract highly engaged individuals

When managers model empathy, companies also have better retention rates and higher employee morale. And, empathy is a critical foundation of a diverse and inclusive work culture. 

Soft skill 2: Emotional intelligence

One of the most important leadership skills, emotional intelligence (also known as “emotional quotient,” or “EQ”) is the ability to gauge and manage your own emotions and build professional relationships. EQ influences how well employees interact with one another as well as how they manage stress and conflict. A high EQ often correlates to high job performance and increased job satisfaction. 

Soft skill 3: Emotional control 

A skill set connected to EQ is emotional control: the ability to regulate your emotions and how they are (or aren’t) displayed. Those with emotional control can manage their stress and stay productive under pressure, and many managers value this skill at every level of the organisation. If a candidate describes themselves as easily angered, frustrated or dejected when a task goes south, you probably don’t want them on your team. 

Soft skill 4: Communication skills

Good communication involves listening and observing as well as talking. Candidates must not only be articulate, they must also be able to “see” beyond the spoken word and notice questionable behaviours and patterns. Employees with expert communication abilities can mitigate a problem before it becomes a crisis, fostering collaborative solutions when they’re needed most. 

Soft skill 5: Self-awareness

This is the mother of all soft skills: Without it, it’s pretty hard to develop other skills that may be lacking. Those with self-awareness pay attention to how they show up in different situations; are interested in and open to feedback; and know their shortcomings. They’re interested in growing, and they’re aware when they’re doing it and when they’re not. 

Screening for the top 5 soft skills in the workplace

Candidates, especially younger ones, may not always be aware of their own soft skills (or know how to articulate them). But savvy hiring teams can learn a lot during the application and interview process. For example, when a candidate completes a task on time and conveys it to the recruiter, that’s a sign of punctuality and great communication. 

Candidates who give their former teammates credit display integrity, and those who maintain eye contact convey confidence. Of course, the nerves that come with an interview can cloak some of a candidate’s better qualities — so collect data and impressions from multiple sources. 

To truly assess soft skills, don’t just rely on your own. There is an array of digital and situational tools you can leverage. Conduct behaviour-based interviews using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Result), asking candidates to tell stories about how they handled various scenarios. You can also ask the candidate’s references for insights on their soft skills in the workplace, such as how they handled stress, time pressure and collaborative opportunities. 

Among digital tools, video recording best captures candidates’ emotional nuances — and reviewing videos after the fact can reveal even more than the initial round. There are even virtual reality (VR) assessments that immerse candidates in a simulated world of the job they’re applying for. This can put your company ahead of the pack and crystallise a great candidate experience. VR assessments and training also have tremendous recruiting advantages, increasing work efficiency in industrial plants by 60%.

Hiring for the right blend of skills takes a measured approach. By screening for these five soft skills in the workplace, your candidates can experience success in any role.

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognised analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.

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