“Let’s stop using the term ‘soft skills’. There is nothing soft about them. Let’s call them what they really are — human skills.”
Years ago, my employer held town hall meetings each quarter. At some point, the floor was open for questions to the CEO. On one occasion, someone asked him what I thought to be an innocuous question about industry pay rates. I watched with dismay as the CEO unceremoniously shut this person down (verbally) and without batting an eye. Now, I understand that pay raises are often performance-based but there wasn’t even a hint of empathy or understanding in our “leader’s” tone or words.
This was my first glimpse of a top leader who displayed a lack of emotional intelligence; a highly sought-after human skill. Fortunately, it seems the times are changing. Many companies now realize the true value of soft skills and their employees during COVID. Not only do emotionally intelligent teams have a competitive advantage, but hiring managers actively look for this.
According to a 2017 report from Deloitte, hiring employees with real soft skills could increase revenue by more than $90,000. In a related article from Forbes, soft skills are essential to the future of work. Today, those soft skills are even more important because the traditional workplace and office comradery has been blown apart with so many of us working from home. From my observations, several of these soft skills appear to stand out.
Communication often factors at the top of sought-after soft skills, and for good reason.
In 12+ years, the best leaders I’ve had are nearly effortless communicators. Despite having days of an “unruly” inbox, they will still answer emails, pick up the phone or display a genuine interest in making sure their people are doing well. They are also excellent writers and know how to use just right words to guide someone in the right direction.
It’s not just a buzzword. In fact, teamwork is even more important now that so many of us are working remotely and without any in-person contact.
With years of playing on successful sports teams and more recent work within the military, I’ve seen what makes teams great. It’s selfless, it’s about looking after the person beside you and getting things done even when the going is tough. It’s a by-product of building trust. We’re pulling for each other because you all know that together a team will achieve far more than the individual.
Many of us have been onboarded completely virtually in the last year and a half. When I picked up my company laptop, I didn’t even make it past the lobby! Fortunately, I’ve had a very warm and welcoming and team and manager, even though we’ve never met in person.
There is a favourite Maya Angelou quote that has stayed with me over time:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This holds true in both my personal and professional life. People who understand emotions and care about their coworkers’ welfare are relationship builders.
Alternatively, it’s far too easy to see when someone doesn’t care. We’re all human and good or bad we have human emotions, however, empathy can be incredibly powerful in bringing people together. Chances are if someone can connect to others or understand how they’re feeling, they’ll evolve into a solid co-worker and even a great leader.
A Growth Mindset
“Always learning” or “be a sponge,” is something I hear often.
If you’re not learning new skills or adding another tool to your skill toolbox, you’re simply not moving forward. Of course, we all can get stuck in a rut, you’d be surprised at how seeking out new ways to learn and grow can move your career (and mindset) in the right direction.
These are only a few of the many valuable soft skills that employers look for.
What will you work on next?
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This article was written by one of our talented IABC Calgary volunteers.
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