Soft skills: Why they can drive career success

Every job requires the employee to have certain technical skills to perform the role, but what about personal attributes and the soft skills that support on-the-job performance? Today’s workplaces are looking for more than hard skills; employers are seeking the soft skills that could deliver better communication, customer service, and collaboration. So what are soft skills and how might they drive career success?

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personal character traits or qualities. Examples of soft skills include communication, writing, problem solving, active listening, and time management. Other qualities like emotion control and even purpose could be categorised as soft skills. Some definitions include qualities like digital skills, self-management, teamwork, ethical qualities, and global perspective and understanding.

The good news is soft skills, like technical skills, can be learned. Soft skills can be harder to quantify and acquire, so it’s important for organisations to focus on these skills. This could be done during training as well as recruitment to ensure staff members have the necessary soft skills.

Why soft skills are so important?

Soft skills are as equally important as hard skills because they  can deliver measurable impacts on things like productivity, retention, and revenue. They have a direct impact on staff performance and therefore organisational outcomes.

1. Every role requires soft skills

Soft skills are likely crucial to any occupation you can think of, and they can support the application of hard skills. From the doctor who needs to communicate effectively with her patients to the software engineer who has to collaborate with the rest of his team, most occupations seem to have an interpersonal component that requires skills like listening, collaboration, sharing ideas, and communicating. Without these soft skills, an employees hard skills could be rendered useless as they wouldn’t be able to apply them to the job appropriately.

2. Customers demand soft skills

In the digital age, customers have access to more product information and marketing channels than ever before. One way for organisations to differentiate themselves is to offer great customer service, with an emphasis on digital channels, especially given customers who engage with brands over social media spend 20 to 40 percent more money than those who don’t. This requires soft skills like interpersonal skills, digital skills, and the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with customers.

3. Soft skills will be essential to workplaces and roles of the future

Workplaces will be further disrupted by trends like automation and artificial intelligence, which in turn will see a greater percentage of jobs that rely on soft skills as technology helps to fill the hard-skills requirements in organisations. Research has found two-thirds of all jobs in Australia will depend on soft skills by 2030.

As a reflection of this, some large organisations, including consulting firms Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers have announced they no longer require candidates to have university degrees but are focused on recruiting people with a broad range of life and education skills and experiences.

Of the 16 crucial proficiencies identified by the World Economic Forum in 2015, 10 are non-technical or soft. Some studies suggest soft-skills-intensive jobs are growing at 2.5 times the rate of other jobs and these roles will account for 63% of the economy by 2030.

4. Employers recognise soft skills drive business performance

Employers recognise the value of soft skills have for their organisations, so boosting your soft skills could make you more employable. Research suggests as much as 92 percent of executives recognise soft skills as a critical priority.

For example, studies have found having employees with more soft skills could boost productivity and in turn deliver revenue gains of over $90,000. Soft skills can deliver measurable value for organisations in a number of ways. It can enhance collaboration, and in turn greater efficiency and productivity. Soft skills are also associated with talent retention, as emotional judgment is linked with lower turnover, and in turn lower costs for businesses.

Soft skills could mean stronger employees teams and leaders, positively impacting the organisation at every level. Soft-skills training in the form of communication and problem-solving, for example, has been demonstrated to raise productivity and retention and in the process deliver a 250 percent return on investment.

Soft skills deliver a wide range of benefits, from boosting employee retentions to business performance. Since employers are well aware of this, job seekers planning to upskills should include soft skills in their training. As for job seekers, organisations looking to retain competitiveness and achieve growth, addressing soft skills could prove to be a fundamental driver of success.

What’s my next step for soft skills?

Now that you understand the benefits of soft skills, you can take our soft skills quiz to evaluate the skills that will help you work towards the next promotion or career change. Then, once you’re ready, you can browser Deakin’s Professional Practice Credentials and bespoke learning to enterprising candidates to help you prepare for the future of work.