Job success usually requires a combination of both soft and hard employee skills. Soft skills are more interpersonal and shape how you work alone or with others. In contrast, hard skills are gained through education, training, or career experience. Below illustrates the differences between both employee skills.
Soft skills are critical in the workplace because they include learned behaviors that add value to or detract from your organization. Specifically, soft skills relate to how you work and interact with others. Soft skills help employees work well with others and find long-term success in their careers. These skills are non-technical skills or job-specific. They are often transferable across industries and carriers. Examples of soft skills include:
- Effective communication – The ability to speak and write professionally in different situations and settings.
- Problem-solving – The ability to effectively resolve issues quickly.
- Work ethics – The ability to maintain moral values in the workplace and consistently demonstrate the company’s values.
- Adaptability – The ability to adjust to changes and different scenarios.
- Creativity – The ability to find new ways to perform tasks, explore potential solutions, and improve processes.
- Collaboration – The ability to work in partnership with others while trusting the skills of others.
Why are soft skills important?
Soft skills may be more difficult to identify, especially in an interview. Great care and attention must be given to determine if a candidate possesses these. Your need for these employee skills will vary by role. How these skills are utilized will often differentiate your organization from others. Soft skills are used when interacting with your customers, colleagues, and the community. They allow you to maintain healthy relationships, grow a network, develop leadership skills and build confidence.
How to Develop Soft Skills within Your Workforce
- Create a scenario-based course that is designed to simulate real-life situations. The outcomes should vary from predictable to challenging. Some should have a clear answer, while others should require exploring the various solutions and selecting the best possible way to respond. Think of a flight simulator that prepares pilots for dealing with complex and unique situations.
- Set goals to improve soft skills. Set specific, measurable goals that can be attained on both a short and long-term basis. The results can be tracked by customer surveys, efficiency, or other quantifiable means.
- Highlight worker interactions or successful interventions, especially unique scenarios, and celebrate successes. This will reinforce desirable behaviors within your organization.
Hard skills are just as critical in the workplace as soft skills. Hard skills encompass the technical knowledge gained through training and/or experience. These employee skills are specific, quantifiable knowledge or abilities demonstrated through tangible evidence such as degrees, certifications, or job-specific experience.
Hard skills are easier to identify and quantify. Soft skills can be challenging to measure and identify, especially in the interview process. This is typically why more time is spent on hard skills. However, creating behavior-based questions, which draws from past behavior, will help you identify candidates who will work well and successfully deliver the customer experience you desire for your customers.
See Tracy Jackson’s HFA article on Talent Acquisition in Furniture World.
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