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Updated: January 6, 2020 Know How

Nice guys finish first: Soft skills key to success

Soft skills are competencies uniquely human and fast becoming more valuable in today’s technology-driven world. We hear a lot from businesses asking us for soft-skills training, which opens up a dialog on why they are important in our global marketplace.

Kathy Rentsch is the assistant vice president for workforce readiness and innovation at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester.

So why do soft skills matter so much to businesses? With the rapid growth of technology, training your employees in one discipline may not last very long; however, training in soft skills will have a much longer shelf life. Companies hiring employees with strong soft skills ensure a productive, collaborative, healthy and effective work environment. Soft skills can include adaptability, communication, creative thinking, decision-making, positivity, time management, motivation, and conflict resolution.

According to data from LinkedIn, the leading soft skills companies are looking for in 2019 are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. LinkedIn’s survey took these findings a step further, noting of the 4,000 senior leaders surveyed, 57% valued soft skills more than hard skills. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends, which surveyed 5,165 talent and managers, found soft skills were what employers wanted. A total of 80% of those surveyed said they were struggling to find better soft skills in the marketplace.

Cultivating soft skills prepares people for successful careers, whether they are just entering the workforce or are a seasoned veteran. Companies often have existing employees who need a refresher course in soft skills, or even a crash course to take their employees to the next level within their company. For those companies, there are a multitude of available training programs statewide. Community colleges are a great place for employers to go and find training programs tailored to teach these critical workplace skills. At Quinsigamond Community College, businesses in the region have expressed an overwhelming need for assistance in this area, which spurred our Center for Workforce Development and Continuing Education to offer soft skills training.

For those businesses looking for quality employees, identifying strong soft skills is a key sign to a good employee. While a great resume is certainly a favorable tool for a job candidate to have in his/her toolbox, assessing that candidate for soft skills is imperative in a company’s hiring process. Professionalism, body language, and composure are all ways a potential employee can begin to make an impression when in an interview, and a way in which a company can begin to gain an insight into a candidate’s soft skills aptitude. When an interviewer asks a job candidate a problem-solving question and/or a question about past collaborations with others who had a different perspective, additional insight about the candidate is gained. While this is not a guarantee of finding the ideal employee, it is a good indicator in assessing soft skills.

Additionally, leadership plays a key role in company success, which is intimately tied to robust soft skills. Do you ever wonder why those in leadership positions are often the most charismatic? While they may not have all the technical acumen of those under them, they are often great leaders who can pull teams together with their strong interpersonal, soft skills.

Team success, project outcome and overall company-wide success are tied to having employees with strong soft skills, and companies investing in improving their employees’ soft skills will reap the benefits today and for years to come.

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