What are “soft skills”, the behavioral skills that employers are increasingly looking for

What are “soft skills”, the behavioral skills that employers are increasingly looking for

To do your job well, you need technical skills – the so-called hard skills. It is the specific technical knowledge to perform its duties.

But the professional world is no longer the same. Therefore, soft skills – social and emotional skills – may be as important, or even greater, as technical knowledge.

These skills are more subtle and discreet. Think about the behaviors and personal characteristics that make a person a good leader or team player.

Especially now, with the normalization of remote work and changes in ways of collaboration and innovation, companies are beginning to realize the importance of these intangible capabilities to successfully build diverse teams.

The result, experts say, is that employers are increasingly taking candidates’ soft skills into account, in addition to their technical expertise and experience.

For some professionals, some of these skills are innate – personality traits that make a person a good communicator or thinker by nature. But for others, developing and improving personal skills can be more difficult.

However, all professionals can develop and improve these characteristics, learning to demonstrate them. Experts say we should all do it.

What are “soft skills”?

There is no set list of soft skills, but they are mainly skills that go beyond technical.

Proficiency with certain software, for example, is a kind of hard skill; Knowing how to analyze different software packages to see which one a company should use requires critical thinking is a simple skill.

Another important area of ​​soft skills is communication. Effective communication with colleagues, clients, and superiors requires ingenuity and emotional intelligence. Empathy, teamwork and solidarity are also skills that are part of this group.

The term soft skills is just a language, according to Eric Fraser, author of The Psychology of Top Talent and Professor of Psychology at Yale University School of Medicine in the US.

For him, “From the point of view of behavioral science, it actually refers to a series of mindsets and behaviors. Some examples of mindsets that represent soft skills could be someone who is always learning, or someone who is highly flexible. And many behaviors are also soft skills. , [como] Critical thinking, active listening, and creative problem solving, to name a few.”

Essentially, Fraser adds, the phrase is just another definition of “interpersonal skills.”

“It has to do with people’s sense of themselves and how they relate to others.”

Several types of soft skills are highly practical, such as efficiency, prioritization, organization and time management – characteristics that are increasingly important for remote workers and hybrid workers.

“High performers have the discipline to organize their day and are very effective in a set amount of time,” Fraser says.

And soft skills are not only useful at work. In general, they are valuable resources. The same skills that allow professionals to operate successfully within the company hierarchy and rise to the top also generate successful personal relationships, for example.

Noticeable change

As many high-tech parts of the job are automated or replaced by technological tools, companies are looking for professionals who can solve problems, juggle greater responsibilities, and work well with others.

The current labor shortage in some countries has also made companies focus on the long term. Employees with sufficient emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to reach leadership positions offer much more value.

Additionally, interpersonal skills are becoming more important in the post-pandemic landscape, with teleworking largely in place. Communication can be more subtle and complex when professionals don’t see their colleagues in person.

And adaptability is another kind of much needed soft skill, as it has shown above all in the past two years. Therefore, employers are actively looking for candidates who have these skills.

An analysis of more than 80 million job openings in 22 industries conducted by the education NGO America Succeeds in 2021 found that nearly two-thirds of jobs listed soft skills as a required qualification.

Among the vacancies, of the ten most in-demand skills, seven were simple skills, including communication, problem-solving and planning.

The same report showed that some types of jobs prioritize soft skills more. These skills were the most sought-after qualifications for 91% of management positions, 86% of business operations jobs, and 81% of engineering jobs—which may be surprising given that this is a high-tech field.

“When you look at the current job market, obviously there has been a change, and it is no longer enough to just have what I call ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘tacit skills’ (…). Engineer, you are good at programming or design. If you work in In the field of finance, you are good at analyzing digital data,” explains Fraser.

Companies have changed to the point where, he says, “there is a deeper understanding of the need for people to come first before performing.”

This does not mean that technical skills are no longer required, Fraser adds, but companies are increasingly recognizing that emphasizing the soft skills that bring them together is what “gets great results.”

The Future of Work 2021: The Global Employment Outlook Report released by the global job site Monster has shown that soft skills such as collaboration, reliability and flexibility are some of the skills employers value most in professionals.

However, executives say they have struggled for years to find candidates with a sophisticated set of soft skills.

Part of that, Fraser says, is that it’s hard to identify skills like imagination and flexibility.

“Surveys and questionnaires don’t really capture these traits with great accuracy,” he says.

And candidates don’t necessarily feature these skills on their resume or LinkedIn pages — as they should, according to Frazer.

Crafting your ‘innovative mindset’

This greater focus on soft skills can discourage some professionals, especially those who aren’t inherently good communicators or “innate leaders,” says Fraser.

But he points out that these are skills that can be learned, even by people who may need to work a little harder.

“People who want to improve their job performance, be a better professional, or have more work-life balance understand and appreciate the value of continuous improvement of these mindsets and behaviors,” Fraser says.

We tend to know our strengths, but improving our interpersonal skills begins with asking for feedback to identify our weaknesses and weaknesses. Getting better may require making an effort to get out of our comfort zone.

If you want to improve your creative thinking or problem-solving skills, for example, try brainstorming sessions with the creative people in your company.

Emotional intelligence can also be enhanced by developing social awareness and learning to control your emotions and respond to others with empathy.

In addition to improving career prospects, there are other benefits: Research indicates that people with higher emotional intelligence are less likely to be stressed and anxious.

As hiring managers increasingly look for people with these intangible skills, they can direct their questions during job interviews to try to discover candidates’ soft skills.

“When you ask someone to ‘give an example of a time when you were completely resilient in your career’ or ‘tell a story that highlights your innovative mindset,’ you ask the candidate to demonstrate these ideas,” Fraser explains.

As for the interviewee, “let’s say the interviewer asks ‘What is your view of lifelong learning?'” This is the time to show the interviewer that you are willing and motivated to learn – and have the skills to do so.

“The best answer is to say, ‘Well, I went to this conference last year; I participate in this webinar once a month; I just read this book; And I subscribed to this industry publication,” according to Fraser’s guidelines.

To better prepare for such situations, candidates must first identify their core interpersonal skills and be prepared to demonstrate them, he says.

Technical knowledge and experience on your resume will always be important.

But in the new job market, it’s not enough for them on their own – you still need to convince recruiters that you have the soft skills needed to achieve professional success.

Read the original version of this report (in English) on the BBC Worklife website.

This text was originally published here.

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