HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Soft Skills
How can you take your employee development to the next level? Implement soft skill development to help your employees build stronger relationships and have a positive influence on others. Read on to learn more.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are non-technical, personal skills and attributes that directly relate to relationships and social interactions between individuals. An individual’s ability to connect, communicate and interact with others demonstrates their soft skills. On the other hand, hard skills refer to technical or job-related abilities that are easier to define and measure. Both soft skills and hard skills help an individual thrive in the workplace, and neither is more important than the other.

Why Are Soft Skills Important in the Workplace?

In nearly every workplace, soft skills are critical to building a strong work environment. Employees with few or weak soft skills are more likely to cause disruptions or be argumentative and unsuccessful in their role. According to The Balance, “[Soft skills] are among the top skills employers seek in the candidates they hire because soft skills are important for just about every job.”
  • They help build relationships. Soft skills—including empathy, conflict resolution, patience, and emotional intelligence—help individuals build, strengthen and maintain relationships.
  • They have a positive influence on others. Individuals who possess the soft skills of leadership, problem solving, adaptability and active listening often have a strong, positive influence as they are typically respected and trusted.

Key Soft Skills for Employees

While there are many soft skills that employees may possess, here are a few key skills that will help your organization succeed.

Communication

Typically referred to as the transmission of information, communication is an essential tool in the workplace. Employees who have strong communication skills are typically adept at collaborating with others, clearly conveying information and setting expectations.

Interpersonal Skills

Effectively interacting with others is an essential tool in the workplace. Interpersonal skills refer to the ability to abide by social norms and rules, understand many forms of communication and socialize with others in a meaningful way. According to Indeed Career Guide, interpersonal skills is a term used to define many soft skills including active listening, teamwork, responsibility, dependability, leadership, motivation, flexibility, patience and empathy.

Leadership

The ability to guide others within an organization is a wonderful soft skill that serves employees and organizations very well when utilized. This soft skill is highly sought after by recruiters and valued in employees. Leadership skills include strategic thinking, communication, empathy, flexibility, integrity and enthusiasm. Employers can help their employees develop leadership skills by providing opportunities for leadership learning, mentoring, and encouraging responsibility.

Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Employees who are able to problem-solve and make good decisions are typically strong assets to their organization. Problem-solving refers to the ability to identify, determine the cause and develop solutions to an issue or challenge. Decisive decision-making refers to the ability to see multiple potential solutions or choices and determine the best course of action in a timely and effective manner. Both skills are essential to success in a variety of job positions.

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions. EQ consists of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, intrinsic motivation and social skills. An individual’s ability to exhibit and manage these six components makes up their emotional intelligence. Empathy goes hand in hand with EQ. It refers to the ability to connect with others and the emotions they are experiencing. When employees are able to empathize with customers, coworkers, supervisors, they help strengthen the work environment.

Adaptability and Resilience

An individual’s ability to adjust to their environment and stand strong despite challenges they face is often critical to succeeding in the workplace. Many jobs require adaptability or flexibility. This soft skill serves employees well as they are able to withstand organizational or job changes and come out on top of difficult challenges.

Conflict Resolution

Along with communication, conflict resolution is a great soft skill for employees to have. Employees who can find peaceful solutions to disagreements that they are either involved in or are mediating tend to be able to create collaborative working environments. This soft skill is key to leadership positions.

Time Management and Self-Motivation

The ability to use time effectively and productively is a critical soft skill for many employees. Those with strong time management skills tend to be effective, efficient and productive in their roles. Self-motivation also plays a role in productivity. This refers to an internal drive to engage in a behavior or action and is closely related to intrinsic motivation. Employees who are able to motivate themselves to complete tasks typically are more engaged at work.

Active Listening

A lesser known soft skill is active listening. This refers to the ability to give full attention to a conversation and respond in a thoughtful manner. Employees who exhibit active listening are often better at conflict resolution and are engaged and respected. Active listening can improve employee relations and deepen working relationships.

Patience and Confidence

Individuals who can tolerate and endure difficult situations calmly are able to handle challenges at work with a cool, calm head. Additionally, those who display confidence and clear thinking at work gain the trust of their peers. These two soft skills go hand in hand with leadership, are highly sought after and serve employees well.

How to Help Employees Develop Soft Skills

The best way to help employees develop soft skills is to provide learning opportunities and communicate the importance of employee development. Here are three steps to help you in this process.

Step 1: Identify Critical Skills

It is essential to identify which soft skills are important to your organization. While most soft skills likely apply to your working environment, consider which are most critical. Does your organization value internal promotion and career development? Then leadership, empathy and self-motivation may be essential. Does your organization rely on collaboration among teams? Communication, interpersonal skills and conflict resolution may be critical. Do many of your employees work in customer service? Then patience, communication and emotional intelligence may be your essential skills. There is no limit to the number of soft skills that are critical to your organization.

Step 2: Convey Importance

If employees do not understand the value of their soft skills, they may not be personally invested in developing them. Employers have an opportunity to develop their talent further by conveying the importance of soft skills and encouraging employees to participate in their own development. Ways to accomplish this can include:
  • Listing required or preferred soft skills in internal job posts so that employees may see how their skills may be applied to other jobs within the organization.
  • During performance reviews or one-on-one communication, share with employees the value of their soft skills and what additional skills may help them succeed further.

Step 3: Offer Training

Offering training options for employees to develop their soft skills invites them to participate in their career development. Additionally, training provides opportunities for employers to electronically track employee progress towards further soft skills. Further ideas for employee development include holding competitions, utilizing e-learning and encouraging gamification.

Assessing Soft Skills

There are many ways to assess soft skills; however, the assessments differ between job candidates and current employees.

In Job Candidates

There are many tools for assessing soft skills in potential candidates. Professional assessments include personality and aptitude tests that analyze skills including leadership ability, empathy, communication and problem-solving. One of the greatest challenges with these assessments is the potential for unconscious bias. Interview questions can also assess soft skills in candidates. Behavioral interviews and situational interviews can be used to assess soft skills.

In Current Employees

Asking current employees to take aptitude tests is ill-advised, as they are well past the interview process. How can we assess soft skills?
  • Performance reviews. One method is to review their performance and talk to their supervisor. Consider where the individual tends to succeed and where they could use improvement.
  • One-on-ones. One-on-ones are another great way to check in on employee soft skills. Individual communication with employees helps leaders understand their current progress.
  • Track learning progress. The easiest way to assess the soft skills in large groups of employees is to electronically track their progress and completion of training and development courses using software like Eddy.
  • Internal resumes. Internal resumes are incredibly useful in assessing and monitoring employee soft skills. These resumes are documents that outline skills, experiences and qualifications that are relevant to and maintained by the organization. According to Indeed, “Unlike a traditional resume, internal resumes focus on [an employee’s] journey within the company.” Soft skills are often included in internal resumes, and employees can add their developed skills to their resume as they strengthen them.
Topics
Raelynn Randall, MHR, MBA

Raelynn Randall, MHR, MBA

Rae has acquired HR experience in team leadership, research, training, recruiting, project management, and mentoring upcoming HR professionals. She is fascinated by workplace culture and the many implications it has on the world of business, especially HR. When possible, she seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and give back to her community.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Adult Learning Principles
Career Coach
Career Pathing
Cross Training
E-Learning
Employee Development
Employee Empowerment
Employee Leadership Development
Group Training
Individual Development Plan
Job Shadowing
Learning & Development Statistics
Lunch and Learns
Manager Training
Mentoring
Networking
Reskilling
Rotational Program
Skills Gap Analysis
Skills Inventory
Stretch Assignment
Time Management Training
Training Needs Analysis/Assessment
Upskilling
Virtual Team Building
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