While it’s true that for years to come, organizations will continue to respond to the global effects brought on by the pandemic, there is one renewed focus in the workplace that has proven to benefit organizations immediately: Strengthening employee soft skills.
Since the pandemic began, many organizations have learned the power behind skills such as effective communication in times of crisis, problem solving in quickly-changing business climates and so much more. So far, 2021 has challenged us in many of the same ways 2020 did. Here are the soft skills your employees need to not only help your organization recover faster, but also prepare your organization for any unexpected changes in the future.
What Are Soft Skills?
Despite the connotations behind the word “soft,” there is nothing soft about the skills encompassed here. As remote work becomes more and more mainstream thanks to the pandemic, soft skills only stand to enhance an individual’s career and lend more power to an organization’s influence in the market. Working remotely challenges workers in novel ways, and those with high emotional intelligence, creativity, problem solving and communication skills will be able to take charge and lead the group towards success.
In recent surveys, 77 percent of hiring managers indicated that they look for employees who will work well in a team and can display soft skills beyond those listed in hiring ads. These include skills that point to strong communication and writing proficiency, strong work ethic and integrity, excellent public speaking and verbal skills and leadership talents. Here are some of the most common soft skills managers notice in their best employees while they work:
- Emotional intelligence and personal accountability
- Negotiation and persuasion
- Public speaking
- Writing and visual communications
- Adaptability and creativity under pressure
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving and flexibility
- Conflict resolution
- Collaboration and customer service
- Diversity and inclusion awareness
- Empathy and strong interpersonal awareness
- Time management
Let’s Get to the Good Stuff
While lists of soft skills can be endless, we want to hone in on the top three and why they are so important to a business’s success.
Communication skills help individuals stand out and make good impressions on others. There are many factors that go into whether or not someone has good communication skills. Let’s check out the most important communication skills:
- Listening – Actively hearing and interpreting what someone is saying is not easy for everyone, but it makes a huge difference in how you will decide what your next action steps will be after a conversation. Active listening involves paying attention, asking probing/clarifying questions and using paraphrasing techniques to make sure you understand what they’re trying to say.
- Nonverbal communication – This includes body language, eye contact, gestures, etc., that can indicate your feelings behind your message. Knowing how to use body language to put other people at ease or to command attention is important, and so is knowing when to use specific nonverbal communication strategies.
- Empathy – Showing that you understand the deeper layers behind what is said when someone is communicating with you can go a long way. Being able to interpret what is not explicitly said takes emotional intelligence, and it can make communication much more holistic.
- Giving feedback – Leaders who are able to give feedback in a way that is helpful rather than critical can promote positive and healthy teams who are more productive at work. Anyone who gives feedback should also be able to receive feedback positively and graciously, using active listening skills.
- Clarity – Knowing how to say just enough to clearly and concisely convey ideas is a power skill, especially in busy and fast-paced environments. People who are able to communicate efficiently garner a lot of respect in the workplace and are usually great when getting urgent information out in times of crisis or change.
Creativity is essential in the workplace, especially as our futures are currently so unknown due to the pandemic. Given the rapid pace of change and competitive nature of business over the past year, leaders are leaning on their most creative team members to find creative solutions to complex problems.
Here are some key benefits of a highly creative workplace:
- Improved teamwork capabilities – A culture that encourages creativity inspires employees to work together to come up with answers to whatever is currently challenging the organization. When teams work together, they bond with one another. This leads to an overall more positive workplace culture.
- Attracting and retaining top talent – It’s no secret that the most talented professionals have demonstrated outstanding creativity in their work. Companies that are known for their culture of collaboration and creativity are able to attract key talent who may perform beyond their hired roles. Creative environments usually lead to happier employees, so top talent are more likely to stay on long term with the organization.
- Enhanced brainstorming – A collaborative environment actively squashes harmful ideas, such as those that state that individuality and selfishness are rulers of the workplace. Instead, colleagues work together to build each other up and seek feedback on ideas. “No” is heard less often and is replaced with a “yes, and” ideology that leads to better ideas across departments.
- Diversity – A variety of experiences, perspectives, insights and learning styles accelerate innovation.
3. Problem Solving
Navigating the pandemic has been challenging for most people, regardless of their industry or line of work. It seems like we have had to endlessly respond to problems and abrupt changes without any real end in sight, so it’s important to realize that problem solving is a skill that can always be strengthened and honed with practice and creativity. Think of problem solving as a bridge between your present situation and your goals, and recognize it as an ongoing process.
Here are some of the ways problem solving can be enhanced at work:
- Fully understand and name the problem – When conflict arises, take a chance to pause and ponder before responding. It can be easy to get swept up in a solution-oriented mindset, but those solutions may be somewhat shallow if we don’t have an adequate understanding of the situation first. Ask questions, and break big problems down into chunks.
- Brainstorm – This is where creativity and problem solving often go hand-in-hand. Ask your teams to collaborate on potential ideas and action steps. Involve a diverse set of perspectives when tackling complex issues, especially when other people are directly impacted by the problem.
- Think ahead – Evaluate potential solutions, and try and anticipate outcomes to determine an appropriate course moving forward.
- Take calculated action – Only after consulting with experts and diverse perspectives can one find creative and positive solutions. Recruit employees and teams who are able to logistically create action steps and oversee the implementation of strategic solutions.
How to Improve Soft Skills in Your Organization
One of the best ways to engage employees and enhance the effectiveness of their skills is to incorporate regular employee training and learning opportunities into their jobs. Regularly providing your teams with employee development programs will ensure that your teams, and your organization as a whole, will be effective in soft skills that are needed in the current environment your organization navigates. Skills such as leadership, time management, teamwork, communication, problem solving, accountability and critical thinking are 100 percent necessary in response to everything we’ve lived through since the pandemic began.
Stay Involved in the Conversation
With COVID-19 continuing to force most businesses to reassess their organizational operations, much remains to be answered when it comes to common workplace challenges. Conversations will be continuing, and staying up-to-date with current trends will help make your organization more adaptable – which is a great soft skill to develop! Feel free to check back into our blog each week as we help businesses navigate the most pertinent skills in the workplace for the near future and beyond.