The future of work is always evolving, but perhaps never more rapidly and markedly as in today’s culture. In the current age of automation and with a greater emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and beyond, soft skills are taking on more and more importance for professionals across industries.
Make no mistake: These proficiencies are not limited to traditionally high-touch professions such as law, medicine, and sales. In a 2017 study of female garment workers in India conducted by Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan, researchers found that soft skills training boosted productivity by 12 percent and delivered a 250 percent return on investment. “Workers with well-honed soft skills — time and stress management, problem-solving, communication and good teamwork, for example — tend to work at better firms and fetch higher wages,” the study’s authors concluded.
Human Skills vs. Soft Skills vs. Interpersonal Skills
Are human skills synonymous with soft skills? The answer is a qualified yes. Soft skills are HR speak for someone who we would describe as “good with people” or as having superior interpersonal skills, but they are actually a specific set of capabilities that influence our ability to shape our professional trajectories and succeed in our careers.
So, what are these all-important soft skills and how can we make sure ours are up to par?
First we’ll take a look at the seven established soft skills that managers across industries look for in successful team members and the questions you should ask yourself when assessing your own abilities:
- Leadership skills. Do you understand how to influence others while simultaneously accommodating their needs? Do you instill confidence, encourage, and motivate your reports and your peers?
- Teamwork. Do you value collaboration? Do you contribute meaningfully when working in or across groups?
- Communication. Do you project yourself well when speaking, writing, and presenting? How about when you’re listening to another person? Do you display authentic interest and a desire for honest connection?
- Problem-solving skills. Do you tackle an issue head on, using your creativity and knowledge to find a solution? Do you discuss these situations with your manager and your teammates openly and honestly?
- Strong work ethic. Are you self motivated? Do you carry out your job with diligence, an attention to detail, and, yes, pride?
- Flexibility / adaptability. How well do you handle change? Are you able to stay open and take on new tasks and learn new skills?
- Interpersonal skills. Are you able to seek out and foster partnerships? Are you able to build rapport with colleagues? Can you give constructive criticism? And, most importantly, do you show respect and empathy for your fellow employees?
Soft Meets Strong
Now that you know what qualities an employer values, you can find ways to hone your own soft skills to make you an invaluable manager, employee, and teammate.
Mursion’s virtual reality simulations provide a safe space to practice and master soft skills on the job. Our human-in-the-loop platforms feature lifelike avatars guided by skilled human interaction. You’ll practice realistic conversations in real-world business settings so that you can experience the presence and plausibility that comes from these immersive encounters.
Whether you call them soft, human, or interpersonal, these essential skills have the potential to make us all better people.
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