Professional success enjoys a high status in our society. In the ideal scenario, the job goes hand in hand with self-fulfillment. To be successful in today´s working world however, it is no longer enough to have comprehensive professional skills. Soft skills are more in demand than at any time in the past. Until a few years ago, a high level of teamwork and strong communication skills were enough to classify you as a “people person”, but now there has been a major mind shift. Companies have long since recognized that soft skills are important resources that can be built on over the long term. The relevance of these skills becomes particularly clear when looking to the future. This is because, especially in a world that is turning ever faster, it is necessary to react immediately and to think ahead. Open markets, globalization, and digitalization – never has the working world been in greater flux. And never have skills such as agility or solution orientation been more in demand. Companies are relying on people with precisely these skills.
What are soft skills ?
Soft skills are personal characteristics, attitudes and knowledge acquired through social relationships- usually through one´s own upbringing and friends as well as through other interpersonal contacts. Character traits are developed during the interaction with a counterpart, and the learned soft skills are permanently transferred to all situations. All this happens completely unconsciously. This is where the foundation is laid for the way we meet challenges in later life, how empathic we are, whether we are good listeners or whether we are able to treat others with respect.
Soft Skills – Competencies without a measurement standard
Compared to hard skills, soft skills are more difficult to measure and compare. There is no predefined training volume that is learned by heart and can be memorized and repeated. No hard facts. No measurable parameters. That´s why HR specialists must be well trained and have a range of sound tools at their disposal in order to really be able to assess the presence and extent of these skills. In actual fact, application procedures can only give you an idea of how the candidate will behave in reality in certain situations. In contrast to hard skills, qualities such as the ability to work in a team or resilience usually only become apparent in concrete situations in day-to-day business.
The entire spectrum
If you take a look at which soft skills companies focus on when selecting their employees, it is quite obvious that the skills that are in demand have changed over the course of the last few years. Today, the most important competencies include agility, flexibility, creative thinking, leadership skills and a strategic, forward-looking mindset.
Creativity and agility in particular are in demand as social skills as never before. The changing demands on employees mirror the market. Globalization and the opening up of markets worldwide are therefore also having an enormous influence on personnel recruitment. This clearly underlines the fact that that a manager, in particular, should possess a broad range of personal, social, communicative and methodological competencies. The following figure illustrates the commonly recognized classification of soft skills:
All soft skills can be integrated into this system. However, even though an applicant or even employees possess comprehensive competences in all four areas at any given time, in reality, individual weaknesses are more the rule than the exception.
Broadening your horizons with soft skills training
Nobody likes to have weaknesses or deficits. Especially if they reduce one´s suitability for a position. However, only very few people are innately equipped with perfect soft skills, and ultimately it is not a flaw but a strength, if you are willing to change and develop in this area.
If one´s soft skills are less pronounced than desired by the company, it is worthwhile addressing this in a discussion and to suggest solutions on the part of HR Development. After all, social skills can be enhanced. Not overnight, but over time. Soft skills can be trained, and there are now countless training and coaching programs for employees at all organizational levels and in all business sectors.
More soft skills = a more convincing CV
In order to enhance one´s own soft skills, the basic features of each competence are explained in individual or group coaching session and practiced situationally by performing various tasks. At this point at the latest, weaknesses become apparent, but in the follow-up coaching, the employee receives honest and neutrally formulated feedback. The situation is disconnected from real everyday professional life and therefore less charged with disruptive emotions.
We explain in detail what companies mean by a strong ability to work in a team, what is expected for example and what are the company´s own weaknesses? But above all: How can you act more like a team player from now on?
In order to work together successfully in a team, it is important that everyone knows their own role in the project and can deduce what part they have to play within this framework. In every company there are many variants of cooperation, whether within a department or across departments. No matter how the team is structured, however, it can only deliver positive results if each individual plays his or her part: Thinking productively, active listening, searching constructively for solutions, making compromises and acting fairly. Teamwork is a combination of countless smaller behaviors. Attending training on neutral ground not only brings deficits to light, but at the same time equips participants with new, functional behavioural patterns. Progress can be evaluated at regular intervals in future individual coaching sessions.
Soft skills as success factors
Both companies and employees benefit from training programs on the subject of soft skills, as this raises the level of collaboration within the company to a new level. At some point, it would also be worth considering whether it would also make sense to occasionally rely on coaching for job applicants as well, if a candidate otherwise appears to be suitable for a position.
Soft skills’ training paves the way ahead sustainably. For a solid and long-term successful partnership. New attitudes and thought patterns give rise to greater focus and more efficient ways of working together. The bottom line is that weakness in the area of soft skills can certainly be resolved. This is how classic win-win will work in the working world of tomorrow.