Earlier, we have discussed the most in-demand soft skills for today’s job market. However, not everyone might have developed the required skill set during their education and/or early-stage career. Sometimes, you also need to sharpen your skills in order to maintain healthy career progress. So, in this post, guest author Anuradha Dutta will talk about the importance of soft skill training and personality development grooming in today’s job market.
Importance of Soft Skills Training and Personality Development Grooming in Today’s Job Market
By Anuradha Dutta
Have you ever heard soft skills training being imparted in our schools and colleges? I am sure most of the youngsters, job seekers, and even mid-career professionals haven’t come across soft skills training as part of a regular course.
The importance of soft skills is enormous in ensuring one’s longevity and success in one’s career. Soft Skills is also known as interpersonal skills or people skills. It refers to how well a person communicates with others and is able to connect with them. How strong or poor one’s soft skills depend on analytical thinking, empathy, and etiquettes.
This is a characteristic of one’s personality. In some people, it is highly developed. They know exactly how to deal with different people in different situations, put across their message clearly and effectively to their listeners, and create a positive impression on people around them.
But, such people are only a few in number. Rest of us need to devote time and energy to sharpen those skills enough to work in specific conditions, build rapport and coordination at the workplace.
What are the top soft skills?
Soft skills are like the axle on which the wheel of inter-personal skills rotates. They are at the core of successful communications that lead to strong employee commitment and high morale and good teamwork.
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Soft skills are too many, but they are present in the majority of the people at varying levels. They are part of our growing up, but experts feel that these are no longer instilled in children as more and more communication now happens over informal platforms like WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc.
Having spoken about soft skills and what they can do, let’s know some important soft skills that everyone must possess:
Yes, common sense is also a soft skill and it tops the list of most important soft skills. It is the basic ability that enables us to make use of our five senses and make the right decisions. It is a power that exists naturally within most of the population. We have to use it every day. However, some people have high levels of common sense than others. Some people can be more comprehensive in their thoughts and make split-second decisions using the knowledge in their hand in tight situations, while others may not be so capable.
No one can teach you common sense, but it can be acquired by learning to use our senses in the right manner. For example, the leader of a troop learns to make quick decisions using his ability to use his mental faculties in the right manner. Similarly, on the work front, this ability can keep you ahead of others. Using common sense alerts you, help you to reason quickly, tolerate faults and mistakes of others, learn more skills, etc.
A 2018 study by Businessolver on State of Workplace Empathy revealed that 96% of employees included in the survey that their employers show empathy. This result is strong evidence as to why empathy is being considered as one of the top soft skills to have and should be developed if there is a lack of it. A manager can deal with both his clients and the people working under her, fruitfully, if she understood their motives driving their actions from their perspective.
Empathy is a human trait. Empathy starts with listening more and talking less. Lending a good hearing to someone and understanding the complexity behind their issues leads to thoughtful questions which can result in solutions that are beneficial to the organization as well as the employee. While policies can be developed that are mutually beneficial to both parties, it helps in building trust and brings the best out of the workers. Empathy cannot be feigned. An organization which genuinely feels about its people can benefit the most from it.
Being empathetic allows employees to open up during meetings and brainstorming sessions, bring in new ideas and ways of problem-solving. Another study said, 79% of employees would leave their employers if the employer was not empathetic. Empathic work environment leads to better learning and improved performance as employees are not afraid to fail and learn from their mistakes.
Time management is one soft skill that can be acquired if it has not been inculcated in you through your formative years. The rewards are enormous. Time management has a balancing effect into one’s life, to say the least. If you miss deadlines regularly, have an ineffective workflow, poor quality work and high-stress levels, you need to learn time management. In simple words, time management is the art of punctuality, which means you are able to complete all tasks right within the stipulated deadlines and you are never late anywhere. You are always on time whether it is an official meeting or a birthday party of a friend.
To be skilled in this art, one needs practice and discipline. It is difficult to maintain it day-after-day, but those who learn to live with it cannot imagine their lives any other way.
It is needless to say that you will have poor career growth and surrounded by disappointments. Learning to manage time will reward you in so many ways that you will never want to get back to your old ways of doing things. While your productivity and efficiency will slide upwards, life will be easier for you as you earn a better reputation for your work and in turn land career advancement opportunities which you had never thought would open up. It would no longer be difficult for you to achieve those life and career goals which had remained elusive to you in the past. Reduced level of stress and a content and happy life would then follow.
If poor time management is holding your progress, it’s time to take a pause and observe how you have been doing the things. A soft skill trainer may be able to help you with this. Do not hesitate to seek help as this is an investment worth making.
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Dissatisfaction and disagreements are almost always present in the workplace. There is bound to be differences of opinion among the workers or between the employees and employer. However, sometimes, the situation may escalate and become grave, hampering productivity and output. A person, who is able to de-escalate the situation keeping in mind the interests of all the parties involved, stands out. This is a great peoples’ skill which can help you to succeed in your career.
An organization without good leaders will find itself struggling to achieve its target. Good leaders take a company forward and for this reason, leadership skills are greatly valued. This skill cannot be learned instantly and takes a lot of learning and observation. It takes both technical and soft skills to guide a group of people towards the set target, overcoming hurdles, both predictable and unforeseen. We can also say that good managers are also good leaders and the skills they possess are the ones every newcomer should observe and learn.
Leadership skills need to be built through one’s formative years. Organizing programs, leading a team in a school tournament or playing a significant role in a project in your school or college helps. Training and mentoring the workforce is also of great value to identify and polish future leaders.
People perceive you the way you communicate with them. It includes both written and verbal communication. The choice of words, body language, tone of speaking, all determine the effectiveness of your communication. Good communication skills allow free flow of ideas and thoughts, prevent misunderstandings, boost cooperation, and definitely better results. It is definitely a quality which recruiters always look for when interviewing candidates for a job. A manager can hardly lead his team to success without being a powerful communicator. In fact the foundation of this soft skill should be laid early in life. But even if you are not a skilled communicator, it is never too late to identify the flaws. The best part is, it can be worked upon and perfected over time by self-observation, experience, mentoring and sometimes formal training.
Every organization wants people who can perform in a team. Members of a team function like the organs of our body. Coordination and cooperation are the two mantras of successful teamwork. Being a team player requires one to have all the soft skills along with the right temperament. Right temperament simply means being receptive and perceptive to the needs and expectations of others. A team player has empathy and is a good listener, which allows him to be in harmony with other members. He immediately identifies situations when he has to be a leader, and listen to others when a situation demands him to do so. Mentoring inexperienced members for a role is also part of teamwork.
Creativity opens the doors for innovation, which enables a company to stand out through the changing times. No wonder, that creativity was desired as the #1 soft skill by the employers in 2019. This surfaced after Linkedin analyzed 50,000 professional skills that employers search in order to find out the most important job skills.
Creativity is desirable in all sections of a company as companies always look for improvement in doing things, which essentially means reduced time, lower cost and value addition to their product or service. It is a new way of problem-solving by relevant and innovative thinking.
Various exercises like brainstorming and mind mapping are taken up to stimulate creativity. Other ways of triggering new ideas can be posing what if questions or putting yourself in the shoes of your client to understand their expectations.
If you are a manager, a creative-culture has to be developed which is possible when everyone’s views are respected. No idea expressed should be rubbished and mistakes should be tolerated well. Appreciating all employees and affirming every worker’s strength will only bring out hidden innovation.
Are you open to criticism and suggestions, and bring changes accordingly? Are you always willing and able to learn new hard skills? Do new challenges and tasks put you off? It is not uncommon to find people in an organization who might answer all these questions with a ‘no’. Past appreciations wouldn’t help you survive unless you develop open-mindedness towards change. As most jobs have the possibility of secondments, employers look for candidates who are willing to work in varied circumstances.
Is the skill gap real?
Young new workers are often frowned at by their managers for their poor soft skills. As already mentioned, recruiters judge the candidates closely on their soft skills. It starts from CV scrutiny. As many as 95% of graduates do not know how to make a proper CV, and it is no wonder that many of them get rejected as they fail to impress with their first piece of communication. Going further, inadequate soft skills land the newbies in more difficulties as they are accused of being unprofessional, unaccountable, having terrible work habits, lack of self-awareness and critical thinking, to mention a few.
This explains the widening gap between the expectations of the workers and the way employees are presenting themselves at the workplace. The usefulness and value of soft skills are overlooked by young professionals and even by schools and colleges. Career experts are of the view that young workers can be assured of a more secure future if institutes which train them in hard skills make them aware of soft skills and encourage them to inculcate them.
However, the bad news is that most young workers are joining the workforce with no awareness about soft skills.
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Can you learn soft skills?
Yes, soft skills can be learned, but the process is tough. It takes practice and discipline to implement these skills in one’s daily activities. It is advisable to know as much as possible about these skills and find ways of using them. For example, timeliness or punctuality can be embraced easily by prioritizing more important activities over others. But the importance of soft skills training can be hardly undervalued in pushing the prospects of professionals up to the career ladder and position them firmly.
Curated List of Best Online Courses on Soft Skills
Customer Insights: New Product Development (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)
Customer Analytics (University of Pennsylvania)
Social Media Proficiency
Psychology at Work
Resume (CV) Writing and Interview Prep
Anuradha is business, health and education journalist. She is an avid reader and loves to travel. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
Featured Image Source: Talent LMS