Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Do You Have Soft Skills To Be In The Workplace Of The Future?

As the workforce moves deeper into a the age of automation, why is it so hard to find the right candidates with the right skills? While many graduates have adequate technical skills, a large percentage lack soft skills like innovative and critical thinking, change and stakeholder management, and a drive for results. 

As graduation approaches for Master of Marketing students at the University of Sydney, for many, finding a job that’s the right fit has become the number one priority. According to research from recruitment company Hudson, when it comes to hiring for technology and digital jobs in 2017, almost half of the job market is open to new opportunities. Even more  sobering for employers is the fact that only a quarter of employees are content to stay in their current roles. Do you see a connection?

PwC reported in their 20th CEO Survey that when seeking value, there must be a stronger focus on a business’ ‘human system’, because it’s the human skills that can’t be automated, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and adaptability.

Similarly, PWC’s Workforce of the Future report noted that in an ever increasing automated world, human skills will still be valued. “Businesses are advised to strengthen innovation, creativity, empathy and leadership capabilities in your business alongside critical technology skills”.

Do you know what are soft skills are?

Soft skills relate to your personal characteristics and traits, and also have a very important role in the company’s decisions who to hire for a particular job position. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are much more difficult to measure and quantify. Good examples are communication, leadership, adaptability and problem-solving abilities, but they can also be things like conflict management, human relations, making presentations, negotiating and team building.

As the hard skills are much more evolved, it is easier for the companies to compare job candidates according to their hard knowledge and abilities. Both hard and soft skills are equally important to employers, so it’s important to communicate all of your qualities, certificates and other documents that prove your hard skills. Here is a handy infographic comparing the most common and valuable soft vs hard skills required in a wide number of job descriptions:

Is there a connection between soft skills and value?

This is a serious hiring challenge for recruiters when it comes to finding candidates with the right technical skills, who fit the organisational culture and who also possess the relevant soft skills. It’s not always easy to find the right people, especially when you consider the competition. According to Hudson, 90% of hiring managers are recruiting to either maintain or grow their headcount.

Image: Hudson

On the other side of the table, candidates are looking for a good working environment, work/ life balance and a role that is also challenging. If for some reason these needs aren’t met or sufficient value isn’t provided by employers, employee job satisfaction falls. 

Developing soft skills for success. 

A good work ethic, optimism, high emotional IQ and the ability and willingness to collaborate with others are just a few of the soft skills that employers look for when hiring. So if you think that these are a few areas  you need to work on, look no further than TED Talks.

Amy Cuddy’s "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are"

Cuddy explains how your body language affects not only the people around you but yourself as well. By striking certain stances or making certain gestures, we can make ourselves feel confident or passive, happy or sad. Cuddy’s talk will help with your non-verbal communication skills.

Julian Treasure’s “5 Ways to Listen Better”

“We’re losing our listening. This is not trivial. Because listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding.” -Julian Treasure
Treasure teaches us that if we listen closely to each other, we can understand each other better. Soft skills—particularly listening—creates mutual respect. We respect those who respect us. If you respect people by listening to them, they will in turn reciprocate. 

Tali Sharot “The Optimism Bias”

Optimism can change your mindset and body. It can affect real life outcomes, keep you motivated and lower stress levels. In this talk, learn to develop the soft skill of remaining optimistic. 

Kelly McGonigal “How To Make Stress Your Friend”

In her Ted Talk, Kelly discusses how to turn stress into a positive, opening up the conversation of “looking for the silver lining”. Stress can be seen as a positive thing- a moment of courage that can help with productivity and positivity. 

Just like hard skills, soft skills can be learned. Developing these skills can help in all parts of your life, both professional and personal. So if you think you are someone who is lacking in these areas, don’t tell yourself that they don’t matter. When automation in the workplace becomes ‘the norm’, chances are, a little bit of humanity will go a very long way.

Alyce Brierley
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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