Professional credentials are an essential part of any employee’s skill set, but they don’t tell the whole story.
What about an employee’s ability to communicate, work in a team or handle customer service inquiries? It wouldn’t be far-fetched to make the case that these characteristics are even more important than formal qualifications in the workplace.
It seems apparent that in order to be a well-rounded, successful individual in any field, it’s important to have developed strong soft skills.
But what are soft skills exactly and how can we develop them to the best of our ability?
In this article, we will answer some of these questions and address some other common queries regarding soft skills such as:
- Definition and example of soft skills
- Ways to develop these skills
- How to improve these skills in the workplace
- Soft skills a leader should have
Let’s get started!
Soft Skills Definition
In the business world, the term ‘soft skills’ is used to describe personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, empathy, and emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) among others.
They are intangible and hard to quantify but are extremely important nonetheless.
In fact, some employers place more emphasis on soft skills than on hard skills because they believe that these skills are what set apart the best employees from the rest.
While hard skills are important for performing specific tasks, soft skills are what make it possible for people to work together effectively and get along with one another.
Examples Of Soft Skills
In order to illustrate soft skills better, let’s go through a few examples of soft skills in further detail.
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important soft skills that employers look for.
This includes being able to speak and write clearly as well as active listening skills. For jobs relating to customer service or sales, for example, excellent communication skills are a must.
Working well as a member of a larger team is another important soft skill sought after by employers.
To be a good team member, it’s key that you cooperate with others, compromise when necessary, and handle conflict resolution in a constructive manner.
Jobs that require teamwork skills are usually those where employees have to rely on each other to get tasks done, such as in project management roles among many others.
Being able to manage one’s time effectively is another sought-after soft skill. This involves being able to set priorities, meet deadlines, and stay organized. Without good time management, burnout is a likely phenomenon.
This soft skill is especially relevant in jobs where there is a lot of pressure to get things done in a timely manner, such as in fast-paced work environments.
In today’s ever changing world, employers value employees who are flexible and adaptable. This means being able to adjust to new situations, change plans when necessary, and deal with ambiguity.
With the rapid pace of change in many industries, this soft skill has become increasingly important.
Thinking for yourself and not being overly reliant on others for direction is another soft skill that employers value.
You should be able to make decisions based on logic and evidence, and not just emotions or gut feelings.
This soft skill is ideal for jobs in which employees are expected to work independently and solve problems without too much external help being required.
Last but not least, emotional intelligence is a soft skill that refers to the ability to be aware and understand your own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
It also involves being able to regulate your emotions, respond effectively to emotions in others, and create positive relationships.
This may be the most important soft skill out there as it is relevant to virtually every single job you can think of.
5 Ways To Develop Soft Skills
As you can see, soft skills are a vital part of being a successful employee. They are also important for those seeking leadership roles as they help to make people more effective leaders.
While it may be difficult to quantify or teach some of these skills, there are many ways that you can start developing them. Let’s delve deeper into 5 of the best ways to develop soft skills and become more valuable in the workplace.
1. Take An Online Course
One of the simplest and most convenient ways to develop your soft skills is by taking an online course.
Not only will this give you the opportunity to learn about the topic in more depth, but it will also allow you to practice what you’ve learned and receive feedback from a qualified instructor.
There are many different websites that offer courses on a wide range of topics, so you’re sure to find one that’s relevant to the skill you want to work on.
Consider the following 3 websites which are industry-leaders when it comes to offering online courses:
- Coursera: this online course provider partners with top universities and organizations around the world to offer courses in a wide variety of subjects, including business, computer science, data science, and more.
- EdX: this website offers online courses from some of the world’s best universities, including Harvard, MIT, and Berklee College of Music. You can find courses on a wide range of topics, such as business, finance, history, and language learning.
- Udemy: this website offers online courses taught by expert instructors in a wide range of subjects, including business, web development, marketing, and design.
2. Join A Professional Organization
Joining a professional organization related to your field is another great way to develop soft skills. These organizations often offer networking events, workshops, and other opportunities to learn and grow professionally.
Attend as many events as you can and take advantage of the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.
To find a professional organization or networking group that’s right for you, try searching online or asking colleagues for recommendations.
3. Get A Job In Customer Service
One of the best ways to develop soft skills is to get a job in customer service. This type of job requires excellent communication and people skills, and it will give you the opportunity to practice these skills on a daily basis.
Not only that, but you’ll also gain valuable experience dealing with difficult situations and unhappy customers.
In fact it is a common trope among business leaders that they’ve had a customer service job, with many leaders saying it taught them how to handle difficult people and how to stay calm under pressure — two essential soft skills.
Volunteering is another great way to develop soft skills. When you volunteer, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of people and learn new things.
Whether you’re volunteering for a local charity or mentoring a group of kids, you’ll be developing important soft skills that will come in handy in any job.
5. Take On A Leadership Role
If you’re looking to develop your soft skills, one of the best things you can do is take on a leadership role.
This could mean becoming a captain of a sports team, starting your own business, or taking on a leadership role in your community.
When you’re in a position of authority, you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively, work well with others, and make tough decisions. These are all important soft skills that will come in handy in any career.
How Can You Develop Soft Skills At The Workplace?
Now that we’ve talked about developing soft skills outside of work, how can we develop soft skills while at work?
Here are a few ways to address the problem and develop your soft skills at the office!
Take On Additional Responsibilities
This is a great way to show your willingness to learn new things and take on more challenges. It also gives you the opportunity to try out different roles and discover which ones you’re most interested in and suited for.
Observe Those Around You
One of the best ways to learn is by observing others. If there’s someone at work whose soft skills you admire, take the time to watch how they interact with others and try to emulate their behaviour.
Finding a role model and taking on some of their positive characteristics is an excellent way to improve yourself as a person. Using this tactic to develop your soft skills is no exception
Seek Out Feedback
Asking for feedback from your boss or colleagues is a great way to get an idea of which areas you need to work on. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as a learning opportunity.
Take Advantage Of Training Opportunities
Many companies offer training programs on various topics, including soft skills. If your company offers such programs, make sure to take advantage of them.
If you’re not sure whether these programs exist, do a quick search on your company intranet or ask your seniors. Being willing to learn is a mark of an educated person and your colleagues will respect you for it.
Leadership Soft Skills
Being a leader comes with its fair share of advantages: you have a great degree of freedom in terms of how you spend your time, you can contribute significantly to company growth, your employees respect your opinion, and you get to make most of the decisions.
But with these advantages also come a few challenges and a great number of skills you need to be proficient at – the biggest one being that you are responsible for ensuring that your team works together efficiently and achieves its goals.
And while some people are born leaders, others have to develop their leadership skills over time through experience and practice. No matter which category you fall into, there are certain soft skills that all successful leaders need to possess.
Some of the most important leadership soft skills include:
Put it this way – a leader without excellent communication skills is no leader.
Being a leader means being able to communicate your vision clearly to your team and inspiring them to work towards common goals.
It also means being able to listen to your employees, understand their concerns, and give them the guidance they need.
A good leader knows how to keep their emotions in check, even in challenging situations. They are able to stay calm under pressure and make level-headed decisions that are in the best interest of their team.
A leader is only as good as the team they are leading. That’s why it’s important for leaders to know how to build an effective team that can work together harmoniously.
This includes being able to identify each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly in order to keep employees happy and motivated.
Not all employees are going to get along all the time. As a leader, it’s your job to resolve any conflicts that may arise within the team.
It’s a skill to be able to mediate disputes and come up with compromise solutions that satisfy everyone involved.
Leaders are often required to make difficult decisions that can have a big impact on their team. That’s why it’s important for leaders to be able to weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision.
They also need to be able to take responsibility for their decisions, even if they don’t always turn out the way they hoped.
Developing these soft skills will not only make you a better leader, but it will also make you a more well-rounded, successful individual in any field.
While soft skills are often thought of as secondary to hard skills, they are actually just as important – if not more so.
In today’s workplace, it’s essential to be able to communicate effectively, work in a team and handle customer service inquiries.
Fortunately, soft skills can be developed through taking on additional responsibilities at work, observing those around you, seeking out feedback and taking advantage of training opportunities.
So if you’re looking to give yourself a competitive edge in the job market, or you’re a boss trying to boost your employees competencies to the next level make sure to focus on soft skills as an essential part of professional development.