Why soft skills pay off for productivity and professional progress
There’s no denying that strong soft skills are increasingly attractive to employers looking to support more technical operations with more humanistic qualities. But as well as being highly transferable and adaptable across industries digitally and socially transforming, can these types of skills actually improve individual productivity and with that career trajectory?
Creativity, collaboration, persuasion and emotional intelligence are all key to our ability to deliver against tasks, briefs and timelines, acting as the bedrock of professional productivity by helping bring people and ideas together. In addition, with the march of automation and artificial intelligence continuing apace, softer skills are becoming particularly integral to maintaining the productivity of new technologies as well as human assets. Rapid problem solving, efficient decision making and clear, actionable communication all help technologies deliver valuable outputs and outcomes, whilst these same capabilities support the quality of their planning, adoption and ongoing management by teams of growing diversity.
For both reasons, sourcing and encouraging softer skills within a workforce is becoming increasingly tied to a variety of financial and cultural business benefits. LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report recognises this, noting how the talent development function within organisations is currently placing more emphasis on building human-centric, people-oriented talents such as leadership, creative problem solving and communication. Accordingly, professionals should be inclined to show a keen interest in how bolstering these skills via development programs at work or self-initiated learning can contribute to productive and future-facing careers.
Enhanced efficiency better positions you for promotions
Soft skills themselves may be difficult to quantify, but their outcomes aren’t – they make individuals more efficient and allow them to consistently encourage solutions in group settings. This directly impacts productivity, and in turn designates obvious candidates for internal promotions. Having confidence in and continually honing your ability to influence peers and partners can also help you achieve visibility within an organisation and cut-through in your career.
Employees who are able to manage their time effectively and clearly communicate with their colleagues and counterparts can complete tasks quickly with quality retained, whilst interpersonal maturity gives rise to the collaboration so important for innovation and exploring new opportunities. Research from organisational consulting firm Korn Ferry notes how managers deploying soft skills in their leadership are able to drive motivation and inclusion amongst their teams, increasing performance by up to 30% in the process – a significant success in a competitive environment.
With hard skills formalised, softer ‘power’ skills can provide a point of difference
Current and upcoming workers vying for positions at all levels of organisations will need to focus on balancing a grasp of hard skills such as analytics with proficiency in softer ‘power’ skills. This term relates to those which allow individuals to remain nimble, relevant and resourceful when change is typical and learning demands to be ongoing.
Industry insight and market trends support this, but it may be fair to say that given technical training benefits from some well-established standard practice, more personalised creative and collaborative competencies provide a better chance for candidates or contributors to differentiate themselves. The fact a Deloitte study on the Future of Work detailed how two-thirds of jobs created between now and 2030 will be strongly reliant on soft skills certainly seems to point in that direction.
Soft skills faciliate effective teamwork and foster connections which improve job satisfaction
With its benefits better understood in terms of productivity and perspective, diversity in the workplace is growing. As a result, staff need to be able to not just work together but to help draw the best from each other through flexible thinking and clarity of communication. This is where soft skills become paramount.
By using these skills to understand and empathise with collaborators, approaches and directions can be informed by and adapt to different opinions and insight, a key success factor in an evolving global marketplace. What’s more, listening to and learning from your co-workers builds relationships and in turn boosts wellbeing, job satisfaction and commitment, all of which are known to provide a potential boon for productivity.
Being future ready is all about confident flexibility
Adapting, flexing, pivoting. Whichever term you favour, there’s no doubt that business realities are faster-changing and more prone to flux than at any time previously. For those tasked with harnessing them, soft skills are the ones which offer the most help in managing reality, even when it looks different tomorrow from how it did today.
The confidence and self-esteem which come with well-developed soft skills allow employees to not only cope with change but, crucially, cultivate new opportunities from it. In best case scenarios, they bring technical and soft skills together to solve problems productively and test solutions with minimum conflict and maximum creativity.