These days when robots and computers can handle more and more technical jobs, our competitive edge as humans increasingly depends on non-technical soft skills. According to a research overview by the National Soft Skills Association, 85% of job success comes from “well-developed soft and people skills” while only 15% comes from technical knowledge. And Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking, writes for Training Magazine that “Nine times out 10, an unsuccessful hire fails due to soft skills, not hard.”
What are soft skills?
Soft skills refer to the capacity to work successfully within a group of people and a culture. The term most commonly refers to abilities such as communication, self-management, time management, teamwork, problem-solving, empathy, and ethics. It’s easy to understand why these would make even the most technical of employees more effective.
Can you learn soft skills or are you born with them?
Many hiring managers view soft skills as “unteachable.” Either you have them or you don’t. This attitude plays out in the job market. A study of 25 million unique job postings over one year by Burning Glass concluded that most job applicants don’t have key soft skills, particularly in writing and customer service. But according to a 2015 survey by Udemy, 72% of companies don’t bother to offer soft skills training.
Fortunately for those of us who aren’t natural networkers or good speakers, you can develop non-technical competencies. Unfortunately for corporate training programs, however, it takes more than a traditional course-centric approach.
Yes, you can develop soft skills – with one key ingredient.
Soft skills take practice. You can’t take a class on “good communication,” pass a test and become a good communicator. You have to deliberately work on the ability over time. Most people, for instance, who become accomplished public speakers have done so over years of giving presentations, not after just taking a course.
If you want to improve your team’s non-technical tool box, take the long view and help them get the experience that will hone their abilities. As a manager, you can apply some soft skills of your own to coach your people into better speakers, writers, listeners, or more.