When we speak about skills shortages, we’re often focused on the hard, industry-specific sorts of technical skills. However, soft skills are also crucial for employee success in today’s day and age.
This newfound appreciation for the value of soft skills is reflected in many studies, including one from Adecco, which found that 44 percent of senior executive respondents believe that Americans lack soft skills. Compare that to the 22 percent who believe Americans lack the necessary technical skills and the 12 percent who believe they lack the necessary software skills.
According to today’s leaders, the real skills shortage is in the realm of soft skills.
Soft skills are hot right now, and modern professionals looking to advance their careers need to make sure they have the soft skills that employers are looking for. To that end, here are four soft skills that every professional should master today:
1. Leadership Skills
The Adecco survey mentioned above found 14 percent of senior executives thought there was a shortage of leadership skills in today’s workforce. If you want to stand out as a strong leader, you need to be sure you don’t confuse “leadership skills” with “management skills.”
Management skills are the technical foundations of leadership, and the category includes things like the ability to complete appraisal forms, organize meetings, and use management software. What executives are really looking for are the soft skills of leadership — e.g., the ability to make difficult decisions, inspire one’s employees, and prioritize work.
2. Collaboration Skills
A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit found that 63 percent of executives believe today’s workforce lacks collaboration and teamwork skills. How do you know if you personally lack such skills? Try asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you think your approach to things is always the best?
- Do you hate it when other people question your approach to things?
- Do you hate working on assignments that require you to rely on others in order to get work done?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be lacking the vital collaboration skills that employers want.
3. Critical-Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
Both The Economist Intelligence Unit survey and the Adecco survey confirmed that business leaders believe there is a shortage of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills among employees.
Corporate environments are constantly beset with problems that can knock projects off course or stall them altogether. As a result, employers want creative problem solvers who thrive in challenging environments. They want people who can be positive — and successful — in the face of adversity.
4. Communication Skills
By “communication,” I mean more than just being able to exchange information with colleagues face-to-face, on the phone, and via emails and reports. Everyone can pretty much do that.
Rather, employers are looking for more advanced communication skills, particularly in the STEM fields. Businesses want employees who can communicate complex ideas clearly to the layman and the expert alike and through multiple mediums. Persuasion and negotiation skills are crucial in this respect. If you want to be a highly employable and progressive professional, you’ll really need to master these advanced communication skills.
What all of this ultimately means is that the ideal candidate should now have a base set of advanced soft skills to complement their technical, industry-specific skill set. If you want to ensure your future career success, you’ll need to make sure your soft skills are up to snuff. Start by refining your abilities in the four critical areas mentioned above.