What are soft skills and why do they matter?

by Jan 11, 2023

The days of hiring based on a single job requirement are out. Focusing on ‘upskilling’ and ‘soft skills’ is in. According to Fast Company, this is a top hiring focus in 2023. With the rise of technology, AI, remote and hybrid setups, and the undercurrent of the global pandemic, the ability to communicate effectively and manage emotions at work is vital. What’s more? Soft skills ensure heightened engagement across teams and colleagues. 

What are soft skills? 

Soft skills are those things that aren’t tied to a job function, but to human behaviors and attitudes. Harvard Business Publishing calls these “human skills.” They make us approachable, especially in today’s heavily hybrid or fully remote environments. Things like decision making, problem solving, emotional intelligence (EQ), time management, and active listening fall into this category, as do empathy, authenticity, and openness to collaboration. In our opinion, the TL;DR is that hard skills make you qualified for the job, and soft skills make you qualified for the team. 

To add, McKinsey defines them simply as “non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others.” Bringing on new colleagues that thrive — or want to grow — in these areas can help fill in gaps created by virtual meetings or dispersed workforces. It’s no longer an assumption that people in leadership roles (or any role) naturally possess these qualities simply because of their title or position in the company. Rather, employers are actively seeking strong soft skills, and employees are actively looking to hone and fine-tune them. Think of soft skills as the emotional “trades,” if you will. 

Why do soft skills matter? 

According to Harvard Business Publishing, the importance of soft skills became very clear during COVID-19. Everyone was adapting to dramatic change at work and in life. Heightened emotions and stress quickly revealed who can navigate turbulent times while still getting the job done. Someone who may have a top degree in finance may not have the highest EQ or time management skills, for example. This is why Robert Boersma, vice president of operations at Talent.com, says that upskilling will be a top employee retention strategy. Workers see the value in the emotional trades more than ever. Today’s workforce has a desire for expanded learning, especially when it comes to self-development traits that may have previously been overlooked.  

The evolution of AI and technology makes human connection more valuable as well. That’s why supplying avenues for soft-skill development helps a team become well-equipped to bridge any gaps in communication, collaboration, trust, or cross-departmental projects. Upskilling also positions employees to make lateral (or upward) moves within their company, and it shows that you value all forms of encouraging career growth.  

Support soft skills 

As leaders, managers, and HR managers, here are a few ways to support soft-skill proficiency in 2023. 

Provide helpful resources

Many wellness solutions — including ours — come with a library of wellness content. Things like stress management, mental health, and social connection are all topics that translate well to the soft skills previously mentioned. Additionally, coaching or educational webinars are great ways to support growth.

Recognize existing talent

If you see strong soft skills in a team member, learn from them. Ask if they’re interested in hosting a Q&A or company webinar for their colleagues. Humility within leadership is a soft skill too! 

Offer continuing education

Regardless of whether you supply courses, continuing education credits, or both, learning opportunities are chances for existing or future team members to pursue their own educational track for career development. 

Revisit review structure

If your existing review structure mainly focuses on performance tied to a specific job function, shake things up! Rework the flow to focus on strengths and weaknesses in areas of communication, collaboration, active listening, and authenticity in the workplace. 

How will you focus more on soft skills in 2023?  

If you’re curious how Sonic Boom Wellness can help elevate your team’s soft skills and support better collaboration and at-work engagement, connect with us! 




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