“Oh , I don’t worry about those. They’re just soft skills”
“Grrrr”, I went under my breath, as another person talked to me about using soft skills. Just in case you can’t tell, they’re talking about people skills the same way that Tea Party activist talk about the Affordable Care Act. With contempt.
The implication is that hard skills like budgeting, financial planning, and other mathematically related activities are more important than is our ability to interact with one another effectively. But the research does not bear that out
In one study of 358 randomly selected Johnson and Johnson managers, the best performing ones possessed significantly higher levels of self-awareness, self-management capability, social skills, and organizational savvy.
Another study conducted with the Wall Street Journal showed that many workplace relationship skills have become more important for experienced employees than for new workers. These skills include critical thinking/problem solving, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork/collaboration, and adaptability/flexibility.
And a project done by the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) found that the skills projected to be in the highest demand for most occupations through 2014 include active listening, critical thinking, speaking, active learning, writing, time management, and social perceptiveness.
Clearly, social competence is probably more important for success in the work and professional world than are a lot of the so- called “hard skills”. Additionally, how can we begin to ascribe a new way of thinking about these skills so that they receive the proper value and importance?
I’ve started referring to these competences as “The Essential Skills” indicating that these competencies are much more than “nice to have”. These are the requirements for admission to the work world and are essential for moving the business forward.
Next time you hear someone talking about “soft skills”, go ahead growl and correct them, but please don’t bite their head off.