What do soft skills bring to business?
During the last several years we have started hearing more and more about soft skills in business, but what do these skills offer, and how can we measure the revenue of the investment into these skills?
To better understand what we mean by soft skills, we need to define them first. Soft skills can essentially be viewed as character traits, or behavioral characteristics that form our personality.
On the other hand, hard skills (technical skills) are those skills we mostly learn from classes, books, and articles. When we refer to soft skills, we are talking about managing ourselves and managing people. In summary, management is an art, not a science; this idea can be hard to work with because we might not be used to investing in something we cannot measure.
There are many kinds of soft skills, but I am referring to those that I consider the basic ones: leadership, effective communication, people management, and conflict management. Here are some basic tips for improving your soft skills.
- Make decisions with the end in mind and challenge yourself every day.
- Add value with what you say and do.
- Discipline your thoughts and focus on results.
- Always be assertive (the balance between passive and aggressive) in your verbal communication and body language.
- Treat others, as they would like to be treated.
- Use your ears and mouth in the same proportion you have them: listen twice as much as you speak.
- Be humble and ask for feedback from your coworkers and subordinates.
- Be a good coach and don’t just give subordinates the answers: make them think and come up with their own solutions.
- Implement regular one-on-one meetings with your subordinates to provide and receive feedback.
- Be neutral and listen to all perspectives.
- Focus on results and implement action plans with solutions.
- Eliminate every prejudice you have of others.
Today, companies all around the world are measuring soft skills monetarily. For example, soft skills are said to be worth $134 billion to the UK economy each year, according to a research from Development Economics that was carried out as part of an employer campaign (more info). The study shows that when soft skills are lacking, operating costs increase and customer loyalty and the ability to adhere to quality standards decrease.
Though we can all improve and develop our soft skills, it is often challenging because we need very high levels of personal accountability, commitment, discipline, and the will to change habits.
My recommendation for leaders in business is to hire people who add a higher value in character than in hard skills. We need to realize the importance of investing in character in our organizations.
Consultant and Business Developer