WORK: Soft skills make the difference
RESOURCEFUL MANAGER – Despite all the hoopla about how tech skills will drive the future, it turns out soft skills, like communicating and coaching, top the list when it comes to being a most valued employee.
Even the tech-types are now saying so.
Two recent Google studies suggest overlooking soft skills is to your detriment.
Top 7 soft skills for success
One study found that the key qualities of top employees are:
- being a good coach
- communicating and listening well
- possessing insights into others
- being supportive of co-workers
- having empathy toward co-workers
- being a problem solver; and
- being able to make connections between complex ideas
By the way, STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), came in 8th.
The second Google study, which analyzed data on what makes a successful team, revealed that the company’s most important and productive new ideas come from teams comprised of employees who don’t always have to be the smartest people in the room.
In other words, the best teams exhibit a range of soft skills: empathy, emotional intelligence, generosity, curiosity toward your teammates and emotional safety, which topped the list.
Here’s how to instill these soft skills in your own team.
First, provide a safe space
By creating a safe environment – which Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, calls a “circle of safety” – you’ll make team members feel secure.
In this type of environment, you extend the “circle,” says Sinek, to include all team members. You’re asking all their opinions and encouraging their ideas.
In this setting, team members will collaborate and feel comfortable bringing forth their ideas, without feeling insecure or embarrassed.
It’s an environment where employees can practice soft skills they may need to work on, says Paul Sebastien, VP, Udemy for Business. “Encourage all employees to share personal successes as well as failures, so others can learn from these victories and shortcomings.”
Soft skills: Hard to teach, but . . .
Managers should take every opportunity to improve their employee’s people skills.
Soft skills “won’t come as naturally to someone who’s currently struggling with it,” says Alison Green, who writes the Ask a Manager blog, so take time to clearly describe what you’d like them to do differently.
“You might tell the employee that when talking to non-technical people, she should stop using jargon, focus more on outcomes than process and check for understanding,” says Green.
It’s “especially important,” she says, to check up on that employee. “If you notice the person making the changes you asked for, it’s key to recognize it.”
Lead by example
Every company has its own unique culture and work environment, which every manager needs to establish. Whatever yours is, it needs to be communicated to every member of your team.
If you value teamwork and collaboration, “the newer employees will naturally start to inherit these very important traits,” says Ed Mitzen, founder, Fingerpaint Marketing.
Soft skills are “something you learn by doing, and you have to live it to learn it,” said Jaclyn Ciamillo, global partnership director, Hyper Island.
“If you are a good example and live by the culture you want to establish,” she says, “your workers will follow.”
Despite all the hoopla about how tech skills will drive the future, it turns out soft skills, like communicating and coaching, top the list when it comes to being a most valued employee. Even the tech-types are now saying so. Two recent Google studies suggest overlooking soft skills is to your detriment.
You only have to look at the headlines from recent years to see that the UK economy has come up against some significant challenges. Whether it’s the gig economy, uncertainty caused by Brexit, or the so-called fourth industrial revolution – it’s clear that businesses are facing increasingly complex workforce issues.