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Soft Skills: What Every Manager Needs to Know

Article by Susan Sherwin

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Trends in corporate eLearning in the age of Digital Transformation have been focused around the development of new technical skills as more and more jobs are lost to automation. While companies and workers have been scrambling to stay ahead of the technology curve in order to remain employable and competitive, recent surveys and research have shown that “soft skills” are just as important, if not more-so, to a company’s success. Soft skills have become today’s power skills.

Google analyzed twenty years of hiring and promotions data and assessed top employees across eight attributes. Of these qualities, STEM expertise was the least important, with the seven most important attributes being associated with soft skills. While workers still must possess functional skills specific to their roles, the real differentiators of high-performing employees and teams are the abilities to function as a unit and be aligned along higher organizational goals, beyond individual job-specific metrics.

Soft skills are no longer a “nice to have.” Organizations are requiring soft skills training in certain proficiencies, such as basic business communications and unconscious bias training, across the workforce. Those seeking to advance in their careers into management and leadership roles need even stronger foundations in soft skills to help them get the most from their teams and the organization as a whole. These are some of the top soft skills companies are looking for as they develop and hire their leaders of tomorrow:

Communication

The ability to communicate across the organization is key for a new manager’s success. He/she needs to be able to convey information, set expectations and motivate teams to action. Those with strong communication skills are also more effective in building professional relationships and networks across the company and gaining support from company leadership.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Group work is increasingly becoming the standard in corporate environments. Companies have come to understand that they get better results when work isn’t siloed and groups representing a variety of approaches and disciplines come together to strategize, design solutions, ideate, motivate, manage, and execute. The ability to master team dynamics and activate a group towards a specific set of goals is a highly-valued capability in any organization.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

The most successful professionals can assess the environment, analyze a situation, design a solution, and ultimately win in the face of an opportunity or challenge. Recent surveys of hiring managers report that the majority of new employees struggle with these crucial skill sets. Those with proven abilities in this disciplined, evidence-based way of thinking are seen as essential to a business’s success and are increasingly in demand.

Leadership

Being a leader means more than a fancy title and the corner office. Today’s leaders are charged with delivering on a broad array of organizational priorities beyond their department’s functional focus. The ability to set goals, direct and develop team members, manage conflict, make decisions, advocate for resources, and give people across the organization insight into the team’s activities is highly prized by companies looking to develop from within or to onboard leaders of the future. In fact, the display of leadership experience rivals academic degrees in the decision making process of hiring managers.

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