Soft Skills: they seem on trend but are here to stay
In the human resources and personnel departments of many companies, there has been some talk about soft skills and their importance for personnel management for some time now. But do you know what soft skills are? And how do you or your company benefit from them?
Despite seeming something recent, the term has been around for some time and has been the subject matter of many papers and reports. Before taking a look at them, what are skills and why do they appear?
The study of skills appears to make behaviour predictability easier in organisations and it can be defined as
“The personal features stemming from behaviour which lead to a successful performance in the workplace” (Martha Alles).
According to this definition we can distinguish between technical skills (hard skills) and interpersonal or cross-cutting skills (soft skills). What makes a technical skill relevant depends on the sector and the function or job. And although technical knowledge and skills are necessary for an adequate performance, soft skills are very important additional abilities in each team member and they are the ones that makes the difference between an excellent professional and the others
So then, what abilities can be considered soft skills?
They are those which are not related to the technical side of a job. However, they are equally important in order to achieve an excellent performance and the team’s strategic goals. For this reason, soft skills are key in an organisation and must be taken into account since the start of an employee’s career, in selection processes and especially in talent management once one is part of the organisation. To help develop the necessary abilities so each professional reaches their full potential is a clear goal of the Talent and Culture team.
What types of soft skills are there? There are two main groups:
- Personal abilities (individual, typical of a person’s behaviour): Learning ability, time management, initiative, flexibility and adaptability, decision-making…
- Intepersonal abilities (of an individual with or towards society, with the rest of people): Communication, teamwork, influence, leadership, conflict resolution, etc.
Among the soft skills we appreciate the most in our employees are the following, as for personal abilities:
Learning ability: Technological changes and evolution demand a constant update. Calm down, the progress bar has not stopped! You should be willing and open to learn new technologies, new ways of working…
Time management: Time is infinite, but we do not have all the time we wished to. That is why it is important to organise oneself well, so we can do the most important and urgent tasks when needed. This makes us more productive and results in more satisfaction and a better work-life balance for the employee and more benefits for the team and the company.
Flexibility and adaptability: Everybody is different from each other and all situations change due to many variables. “Be water, my friend.”
Initiative: One of the advantages initiative brings to a person is to be able to find new opportunities. Professionals with initiative will turn ideas into actions. Initiative is open to change and innovation and allows to find solutions quickly and efficiently.
Decision-making: It is, perhaps, one of the hardest abilities to develop. Making the right decision in the right place and at the right time is almost an art, that is why we should know the one that will produce the best result. Experience is fundamental, regardless of the training and work to develop it.
Among the interpersonal abilities we highlight:
Communication abilities: The development of the human species has been achieved due to, among others, the ability to communicate. If you are not able to convey your ideas they will never become a reality. To communicate efficiently – both orally and in writing – is not always easy because it is affected by external factors such as the environment, the recipient’s attitude and, in short, physical, psychological and cultural barriers. Good communication improves processes, optimising time and resources and minimising errors.
Teamwork: Wherever you are, your work not only depends on you. Teamwork makes tasks be done more efficiently, increases all the team members’ learning, makes more and better ideas come up and helps a sense of belonging be created.
Influence: If only you see the solution to a problem, you should be able to make others see what you see. This is not just about communicating, but about knowing how to go one step beyond and make your communication be taken into consideration.
Leadership: You are not given respect, you earn it. When we manage a team, we should not forget we are dealing with people and that respect and leadership are related to aspects such as diversity, work atmosphere and commitment, and especially, exemplariness. As with influence, there is no leadership without careful and appropriate communication.
Conflict resolution: Well! Whether we like it or not, we work with people and for many hours a day. Whether they are customers, colleagues or managers, we have to manage our emotions and those of the others well. Many times, nobody has the solution, can you find it? It is the key for solving conflicts in an appropriate manner and without creating additional problems.
Be careful! Soft skills are important, but they are not enough. There must be a balance with technical abilities. You may be brilliant at programming or analysing data, but if you do not know how to communicate, work in a team or update your knowledge you will not be able to develop your full potential. On the contrary, if you are the most flexible, influential and organised person, but you lack the knowledge and technical abilities and you are not ready to acquire them, that will affect your effectiveness and credibility in the medium or long run.
Only if your hard and soft skills are balanced will you be a great professional.
Obviously, it is impossible to have all the skills at the same level of development and stand out in all of them in the same way. Because of this, we have to bank on the professional development of all our employees, with an individualised career plan, focusing on developing soft skills without forgetting technical training.
Yes, skills can be trained and developed; you do not have to be born with them nor do they arise spontaneously. They demand time, experience, support from the company and work and effort that can only be done individually.
If we pay attention to this equation between skills and knowledge we are describing, there is one unknown value to find. It is motivation. Thus, we have knowing, doing and will to do, the great professional’s triad which will bolster your career at Innova or any other organisation.
We are in a professional environment which needs a series of technical and cross-cutting abilities, especially in the technological sector, which is constantly changing. For this reason, these skills should be developed even more in this sector, although it may seem one where technical skills prevail.
Among Innova-tsn’s values there is Commitment, Excellence and Business Vision. It is not by chance we refer to soft skills (commitment), hard skills (excellence in providing our service) and something that requires both (business vision).