Soft skills are vital to successful teams but why, asks Luke Smith, are they so often overlooked?
In any industry, the key to success is often found in having a cohesive and communicative team. However, with technology growing more complex year after year, employers can easily overlook the importance of developing soft skills in their employees. So, what are the most important soft skills for teams and why are employers now starting to see the long-term value that they present.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are the interpersonal or people skills that we use to communicate and interact with others. While hard skills refer to the technical or tangible skill sets needed for a job – such as proficiency in HTML, Python, etc. – soft skills include the intangible qualities that allow us to get along with our coworkers, solve problems together, and respond effectively in difficult situations. They can be thought of as personality traits – the kinds of things you tell people about yourself when they ask what kind of person you are or when you’re building a resume.
Soft skills in the modern workplace
As technology has continued to evolve and become more complex, the skills required to perform specific tasks have changed. Some of our most basic job functions are now being performed by AI or automation – freeing up our time for other endeavours. This leaves employers in a position where they are looking for employees who can do the job and have the interpersonal skills to work effectively as part of a team.
With offices becoming more global and diverse, it is increasingly essential for teams to communicate across cultures and backgrounds. Soft skills help us to understand others’ points of view
Additionally, with offices becoming more global and diverse, it is increasingly essential for teams to communicate across cultures and backgrounds. Soft skills help us to understand others’ points of view, navigate difficult conversations, and resolve conflicts in a way that minimises damage to relationships. For example, a team member with strong, soft skills may identify when a coworker is stressed or upset and help them see solutions or work through problems.
Soft skills are also crucial for career growth. Many employers now look for employees who have the hard skills required for a position and the soft skills needed to navigate office politics, lead and motivate teams, and resolve conflicts. Those who possess both types of skills are often in high demand and can be more easily promoted within their organisations.
Soft skills for communication and cohesion in teams
While many soft skills can be helpful in the office, soft skills can be developed and used in various settings. For example, teachers have an excellent opportunity to develop soft skills in their students using multiple strategies in and outside the classroom. However, regardless of when they are developed, the following are some of the most critical soft skills for creating cohesive and communicative teams in professional settings:
● Communication skills: The ability to listen attentively, ask questions, and share information effectively is critical for teams that need to collaborate. Good communication also helps to build trust among coworkers.
● Conflict resolution skills: When tensions flare or misunderstandings occur, teams need to have someone who can help mediate and resolve conflicts quickly and respectfully. Those with solid conflict resolution skills know how to keep emotions in check while finding common ground solutions.
● Collaboration skills: Teams that work well together often have members who share ideas, listen actively, and compromise when necessary. They understand that the goal is not to win but to work together towards a common goal.
● Emotional awareness: Emotional awareness is the ability to be aware of and manage one’s own emotions and the feelings of others. It includes things like empathy, self-awareness, and stress management skills. Those with high emotional intelligence can often navigate difficult conversations and relationships more effectively. They can also recognise signs of developing optimism bias or feeling overly confident that they are impervious to workplace incidents or safety hazards.
● Organisational proficiency: Organisational proficiency is staying organised, planning and scheduling effectively, and managing time wisely. Those who are proficient in an organisation often have an easier time completing tasks on time and meeting deadlines.
Developing soft skills effectively
While some people are born with natural soft skills, most can be developed through training and practice. Here are a few tips for improving your soft skills:
● Attend training seminars or workshops: Many workshops and seminars are available that focus on teaching interpersonal skills. Attending one of these can help you learn new techniques and strategies for managing difficult conversations, resolving conflicts, and collaborating effectively.
● Join a professional networking group: Joining a group of professionals who share your interests can be a great way to improve your collaboration skills. You’ll have the opportunity to meet others who work in your field, exchange ideas, and collaborate on projects.
● Take a class: If you’re unsure where to start, taking an introductory class can give you the foundation necessary to develop soft skills. Many schools offer courses in communication and conflict resolution that will help prepare students for successful careers after graduation.
● Work with a coach: If you feel that it’s difficult for people to give you constructive feedback, consider working with a coach who will help guide the conversation and keep everyone focused on goals and outcomes. A coach can also offer valuable insight into ways that are holding you back from reaching your potential in certain areas of work-life balance.
Soft skills have become increasingly important in the workplace as employers realise the value of a cohesive and communicative team. Unfortunately, these skills are often overlooked, but they can make or break an organisation. By developing your soft skills and that of your employees, you’ll be able to contribute more effectively to your team and help reach the common goals of the business.
Luke Smith is a freelance writer