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The 7 most important soft skills of the future

Corona or not, business continues and will pick up. Working on your soft skills now means more marketability during job interviews.

Hard skills are generally seen as those which can be taught and/or measured. In other words, they can be quantified and evaluated.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are usually defined as your toolkit of people, social, and communication skills. As such, they have traditionally been seen as unmeasurable.

Yet, the divisions may be becoming blurred.

In January 2020, Forbes online magazine suggested that soft skills may be the new hard skills. For this to happen, soft skills must be quantifiable, and it seems that they are.

Already, many companies have created and implemented measures of soft skills. This makes sense given the serious impact these skills make on profitability. For example, research reported that soft skills enriched the UK economy by £88 billion in 2015 and was predicted to rise to £109 billion by this year, 2020.

 

Soft skills vary somewhat by industry

Studies show that there is variation in which skills are most valued. This makes sense. Although the goal of most businesses is to be profitable, the ways in which they achieve this can be different. Thus, an industrial electronics company will most likely rate English communication as the highest soft skill while teachers at a vocational school will be expected to have honesty and a good attitude towards learning as their top competence.

 

And yet, are there 7 top soft skills of the future?

Here’s what our research found.

 

The top soft skill: Communication

Communication is, perhaps, the life energy of an organization. To get the job done, employees must communicate with their colleagues at every level from top management on down. Also, the organization must successfully communicate its product/service to its buyers/users in order to achieve any sales at all. So, it is not surprising that, again and again, studies identify communication as the top, common soft skill in business and industry.

Effective communication requires a set of sub-skills. Good English (reading, writing, listening, speaking) is often a critical communicative sub-skill in our global economy. So, too, is a high level of interpersonal intelligence in order to know how to say things to people of different mindsets and cultures…especially when the situation is difficult or challenging. The sub-skill of persuasion is helpful when motivating employees AND convincing customers.

Thus, if there was ONE soft skill to develop in yourself, it would be communication.

The relative importance of soft skills 2-7 differ depending on sector, so we will present them in alphabetical order.

 

Creativity

In many companies, the financial bottom line has replaced brainstorming. Ideas are measured in terms of their contribution to efficiency and profitability. “Off the wall” ideas are not even brought to the table. This trend is despite data which shows that creativity contributes to above average, organic revenue growth AND is more effective by a large margin in increasing sales (creativity 47%) as compared to reach (22%), brand (15%) and targeting (9%).

To develop your creativity, give yourself permission to think anything about anything. They are only thoughts, after all. If you get a good idea, write it down somewhere (phone, journal, sticky note on wall, etc.) Come back to your ideas every once in a while. Any worth developing further? If you find one worth passing on to your workplace, do so. Don’t worry about the possible feedback. Keep practicing.

 

Critical thinking

Can you gather information, evaluate it with a minimum of bias, envision a variety of perspectives, and formulate logical plans? Congratulations, you are a critical thinker!

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operationInternational Labour Organization and Development (OECD) found that employees give more of themselves in workplaces which are places of trust and mutual gain. Critical thinking can help build this atmosphere since it focuses on objective information, rather than gossip, cultural bias, or other unhelpful criteria.

To improve your critical thinking, begin by taking a self-inventory. Which biases do you have which might affect how you view things? Recognizing our “world view filters” is the most important step in working on them.

 

Discipline and ethics

When you think of discipline, think of boundaries such as…

  • the manner in which you dress
  • whether you wash out your coffee cup or leave it in the lunchroom sink
  • the cleanliness (or not) of your workspace
  • how you speak to others and what you choose to talk about
  • whether you follow workplace rules even if you don’t agree with them

With regards to ethics, consider values such as honesty, integrity, compassion and empathy, and respect for others’ wellbeing. For example:

  • Do you throw team members under the bus when the project report is late or do you share in the responsibility…even if your part was ready on time?
  • Your co-worker needs to leave early to take his child to the doctor. Do you help out by picking up his slack or gossip about his irresponsibility?
  • At break time, do you smoke in the designated area or do you sneak one wherever because it’s closer and more convenient?

Much of future business will continue to be “people-oriented.” Valued workers will be those who contribute to their workplaces in positive ways, including being reliable representatives. Whether in person or virtual, you will be the face of the company, and it wants the best face possible.

 

Management and organization

Even if you are not a manager, you still need this soft skill. Doing your job in an effective, efficient, orderly way not only means your work gets done well, it helps others to succeed in theirs. A good tool for improving your management and organization is a to-do list. If you are interested in a digital method, there are many apps which offer online tracking. This list will get you started.

To take it to the next level, combine your to-do list with a flowchart. Flowcharts can get as step-by-step as possible, breaking down your main goals into more manageable pieces. You can also go old school by using either of these methods with old-fashioned pencil and paper. For many, the physical act of writing makes a beneficial difference.

 

Teamwork and collaboration

No doubt you’re very familiar with the term “team player”…perhaps a little too familiar? Be that as it may, the teamwork and collaboration trend is strong and increasing. Although it may take on a more virtual rather than physical characteristic, organizations will continue to need people who can work well with others.

 

Time management

This is a far-reaching area. It begins from the basics such as arriving on time (to work, to meetings). It moves on to your work process and ends up with meeting deadlines. Have you delayed the members of your project team because your part isn’t done on time? This is going to have an effect on the quality of your teamwork, another of the top 7 soft skills for the future. Effective time management is a combination of mindset and priorities. You can set a list of priorities and map out a timetable, but if your mindset is not on board, you can forget success.

 

How prepared are you?

Successful employees and entrepreneurs see their soft skills as an ongoing project. There is always more that can be done. So, it’s never too early (or late) to begin.