The Importance of Soft Skills in the Modern Workplace

In the realm of employee development, soft skills bear an unfortunate name; once skills are labeled “soft,” the implication is that they are somehow less valuable than other skills, which, in a binary world, are thought of as “hard skills.” When people hear the term “soft skills,” they often think of fluffy concepts like “being well liked” or “being polite.”

Soft skills

Soft Skills Matter!

In reality, soft skills are extremely important in any business setting. And one could argue soft skills are more important for workers now than at virtually any time in the past. That’s because new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and improved automation increasingly mean that so-called “hard skills” can be performed by nonhuman assets—a machine can assemble other machines and perform quality control; AI can read mammograms and detect breast cancer; and a virtual robot can answer and address calls to a customer service line. Clearly, it’s becoming increasingly common for many tasks that once seemed innately human to be performed by nonhuman tools.

Soft Skills Are Innately Human Skills

At least for the time being, it’s the soft skills that remain difficult, if not impossible, for machines and computers to replicate—skills like problem-solving, relationship management, creative thinking, intercultural sensitivity, and others. These are the types of skills that often set job candidates apart from competition who may have comparable hard skills.

For example, if two candidates who look essentially identical on paper when it comes to education, experience, etc., come in for an interview, it’s often the one who seems more personable or who can provide more glowing references who lands the job.

So what does all this mean for recruiters? Simply put, it’s time to stop thinking about “soft skills” as, well, soft. As traditionally “hard skills” become easier and easier for machines and computers to perform, they’ll become commoditized, and it will be the so-called “soft skills” of a company’s workforce that set it apart from its competitors.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.