Saturday, December 20, 2014

How important are soft skills in the corporate world?

When an organization is hiring new employees, what is it that they look for? Do they want someone who is capable of completing the tasks assigned to them?  However, are technical skills, or hard skills, all that one needs to be a valuable and viable asset in the business world? Absolutely not as there’s more to employment than simply knowing “how” a job is done.

Hard Skills Not Enough For Job Success

Statistics from around the world have consistently shown us that many students who will graduate in the coming years will be “preloaded” with the required technical skills that their careers require. Yet, despite this, many find themselves unable to adequately perform in a competitive marketplace due to their lack of interpersonal skills otherwise known as soft skills.

Three Key Differences between Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

To be good at hard skills usually takes smarts or IQ (also known as your left brain-the logical center).  To be good at soft skills usually takes Emotional Intelligence or EQ (also known as your right brain- the emotional center).  

Hard skills are skills where the rules stay the same regardless of which company, circumstance or people you work with. In contrast, soft skills are self-management skills and people skills where the rules changes depending on the company culture and people you work with.  

Hard skills can be learned in school and from books.  There are usually designated level of competency and a direct path as to how to excel with each hard skill.  In contrast, there is no simple path to learn soft skills.  Most soft skills are not taught well in school and have to be learned on the job by trial and error.  

Studies have shown that 75% of long-term success depends on soft skills and 25% depends on technical/hard skills this is true at other levels as well. For effective performance in the workplace, companies need their employees to have not only field knowledge, technical and analytical skills, but also the skills to deal with the external world of clients, customers, vendors, the government and public; and to work in a collaborative manner with their colleagues. 

The annual rankings of MBA colleges often place communication and interpersonal skills as the most critical skills needed for success in the corporate world.

I would say in general, soft skills are more important in most business careers than hard skills. We all know or have worked for senior people that don’t seem that knowledgeable of their field (limited hard skills).   The fact remains that they are in senior positions because they have exceptional soft skills (e.g., know how to leverage their interpersonal skills –soft skills- to further their leadership skills, management skills, self promotion skills etc…).

Food for thought – most of us have spent (or spending) several years in education focused mainly on building our hard skills full time and a little on our soft skills through team projects, sports, and social activities.  To succeed in our career, shouldn’t we spend other years to proactively master the soft skills necessary to advance our careers?