Are soft skills important

We like or dislike people based on their behaviour. Our behaviour as individual and also towards others is a result of our soft skills. So let me present to you 10 separate research / report to answer importance of soft skills for our success.

What are Soft Skills

“There is no set list (or definition) of soft skills that everyone embraces but there are a few that are commonly found in any discussion of soft skills.”

– From the book “Proving the value of soft skills”

Soft skills can be termed as a list of behavioural competencies required by any individual or a leader. These are desirable qualities that do not depend just on acquired knowledge.

We can list a few of the most common soft skills in three groups as below.

Communication

  • Presentation
  • collaboration
  • Conflict resolution
  • Business writing.

Individual effectiveness

  • Time management
  • critical thinking
  • self awareness
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity

Management effectiveness

  • Motivating people
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • persuasion

This might not be the complete list. But these are surly among the most commonly used soft skills. Among these all, LinkedIn identified top 5 “most in demand” soft skills during year 2020. These 5 skills are Creativity, Persuasion, Collaboration, Adaptability and Emotional Intelligence.

Are soft skills important ?

The answer lies in 10 separate reports published in the recent years. These reports are published by well known organisations. Below is what each of these reports has to say about why are soft skills important.

1. LinkedIn: Global Talent trends 2019

Global talent trends 2019 is the report published by LinkedIn. This report was a result of surveying thousands of hiring professionals. In short, It focused on four new trends. These trends are Soft skills, work flexibility, anti-harassment practices and pay transparency. The report found almost all (92% to be specific) professional surveyed said candidates with strong soft skills are increasingly important.

a LinkedIn report says, 89% of bad hires typically have poor soft skills.

Further, the report justifies the high importance of soft skills with the increase in AI and automation changing the job market. Few more reports mentioned below also provides specific statistics about the impact of increasing automation and AI.

2. McKinsey: Skill shift Automation and the future of the workforce

McKinsey published the above discussion paper in 2018. This paper quantifies the time spent on 25 core workplace skills for today and in the future. To clarify, this study was done for select European countries, the UK and the US. The study modelled a skill shift going forward to 2030. As a result, they found that over the next ten to fifteen years, technology will transform the workplace. The demand for technological skills will continue to grow. Similarly, the increase in the need for social and emotional skills will accelerate. On the other hand, the need for basic cognitive skills and physical and manual skills will decline.

The study shows a 24% increase in time spent on social and emotional skills over the period of ten to fifteen years. Compared to 14% and 15% decline in  basic cognitive skills and physical and manual skills respectively. 

According to the McKinsey study, “The need for finely tuned social and emotional skills will rapidly grow.” 

“Accompanying the adoption of advanced technologies into the workplace will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills. Skills that machines are a long way from mastering”. The report suggests.  

3. Deloitte: Soft skills for business success. 

In the study focused towards a specific country, Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. Compared to half of all jobs in 2000, this shows major shift in trend. So jobs in soft-skill intensive occupations is expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations.

4. Burning Glass Technologies: The human factor, the hard time employees have finding soft skills

Burning glass technologies mentions, every job ad is a window into the real world of the labour market. Accordingly, they published a report after studying various job postings. As per the report, on average one third skills requested in job posting are baseline skills.

According to the report, baseline skills includes most soft skills. In addition, it includes skills which are required at the workplace but doesn’t come under hard skills or soft skills. For example, Microsoft Excel skills.

The report also says that the proportion of baseline skills demand depends on a particular industry. Even in the most technical areas like IT or healthcare, also require baseline skills as one fourth of all skills. The report further defines 28 separate skills which together makes “baseline skills”. And 22 out of these 28 skills come under soft skills.

The report also defined top 4 skills in defined from employers based on all job ad. These are Communication skills, organisation skills, writing and customer service.

5. The Economist: Closing the skills gap

Working environments require more and more collaboration rather than the performance of repetitive tasks or the operation of machinery.

Thus, we have seen the rise in both the necessity of and demand for soft skills. The report found that top 3 skills which are considered most important for employees to have when they join, are all soft skills. Critical thinking and problem solving skills tops the chart with 72% respondent finding it most important. Followed by collaboration and teamwork with 63% score. Third most important skill is communication skills with 54% respondent finding it important.

6. IBM: 2018 IBM Institute for business value global country survey

IBM reports that skilled humans fuel the global economy. Digital skills remain important however soft skills have surpassed them in importance.

Earlier in 2016, IBM reported that digital skills are in high value. For example, six out of ten executives believed that technical skills are their most sought after skills. However, within two years in 2018, they observed a major shift.

Subsequently in 2018 report, behavioural skills and not technical or digital skills were critical and important. Moreover the report said, soft skills dominated the top four core competencies sought by global executives.

“In a new business environment loaded with powerful technology, executives are now tasked with  continuously innovating and succeeding in this constantly evolving landscape. And they recognize that navigating it requires individuals who can communicate effectively, apply problem solving and critical thinking skills to drive innovation using new technologies, and draw and act on insights from vast amounts of data. It also calls for creativity and empathy, an ability to change course quickly, and a propensity to seek out personal growth. Expectedly, teamwork and organizational flexibility top executives’ list of most important attributes for successful innovation” 

IBM survey report

Top 4 requirements in 2018 as per the report are all soft skills. These are Flexible and adaptable, time management, work in team and communication.

7. Google: Project Oxygen

Google launched the project oxygen to check the impact of manager’s quality on performance. So they hired a group of statisticians to evaluate the difference between highest rated managers and lowest rated managers. Data was collected using employee surveys, past performance appraisals, interviews and employee’s feedback. Their hypothesis was that a manager’s quality does not impact performance. However, they ended up proving this hypothesis wrong. Further, based on the findings of project oxygen, Google ended up listing 8 qualities of good managers. To add further, 7 out of these 8 qualities were actually “Soft Skills”

8. Shell: Why Shell pushes hard on soft skills

Royal dutch Shell is a global energy company that values soft skills high. Shell looks for candidates who are capable of challenging the status quo, in an appropriate and effective manner. This can help the company to drive innovation. Shell is one of the world’s largest companies with operations in more than 70 countries. So they strongly believe that employees with strong soft skills can easily navigate this multinational base. “Good communication skills are vital to our success,” says Debbit Foley. Since their employees need to work with different people from different countries. He further adds:

The ability to rapidly build and maintain relationships across teams, disciplines, and countries is so important. Not just to drive productivity, but to help employees identify their next opportunity.”

– Debbit Foley, Shell

9. Udemy: 2020 workplace learning trends

“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” 

– Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzo

The year 2020 can be easily termed as the year of uncertainty. With the unexpected (almost) worldwide lock downs and its side effects like struggle for survival, mass job cuts. In addition, this was followed by the new normal life like work from home or social distancing. So the year has changed our world without any warning. As a result of these uncertain and sudden events, the need and demand for soft skills have accelerated dramatically. Udemy published a 2020 workplace learning trends report based on 40 million people studying on Udemy world wide.

According to the report, highest growth in course enrolment was for mental health and wellness. However, this was expected due to the events of the year 2020. This was further followed by growth in courses related to self improvement. Accordingly, enrolment for Communication skills witnessed 1600% growth. Decision making skills enrolment were up by 1240%. Similarly, enrolment for productivity and habits skills like Time management went up by 990%. To add further, enrolment in Motivation course went up by 855% and Focus mastery by 810. Likewise, self discipline enrolment was up by 791% and goal achievement by 581%. High enrolment for these courses shows, employers as well as employees both have started recognising the importance. So started taking steps for the improvement of skills.

10. National Soft Skills Association: The soft skills disconnect 

This is based on a research conducted by Harvard University, The Carnegie foundation and Stanford research centre. All has concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well developed soft and people skills. Only 15% comes from technical knowledge. If you want to know when this report was published? it was in 1918. That’s right, more than 100 years ago. After all the recent trends, wondering why did I choose to include a 100 year old report? This is just to make a point that the importance of soft skills was known to us long ago. Unfortunately, we were not paying enough attention to it. However, our regular and repetitive jobs are being eroded at a faster speed by technology. And due to the events of dramatic year of 2020, this is the time to go back to our own soft skills for personality development.

There are number of factors our soft skills can impact. Our overall personality is the result of the same. At work, our personality plays big role when we move up the ladder. Organisations and recruiters have increasingly started looking for soft skills during new recruitment and also in their existing employees. This makes it very important to land a job as well as to retain and grow in the corporate world. Soft skills are really important in our work like and also in our personal life. Most importantly, all of the soft skills can be learned and mastered with practice. So identify which one you want to learn and start working towards that.

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