We here at BOLD Training want to start a conversation and shine some light on the value that is being placed on Soft Skills. We want to challenge the discussion surrounding soft skills. Are they essential? And why do soft skills get such a hard wrap?

Are hard skills more valuable or sought after than soft skills?

Is there an understanding of what soft skills are?

Do businesses or individuals strive to develop their soft skills?

All are valid questions and we’re here to discuss, dive into and understand the value soft skills hold in both businesses and individuals.

So, when you hear ‘Soft Skills’, what do you hear?

What is your perception of the word ‘soft’? All of us hear things slightly different and even communicate messages differently. When you hear the word soft, your perception may be weak, fluffy, not important.

What about ‘Hard Skills’, what do you hear? Your perception of the word ‘hard’ may be that they’re sharp, harsh, rigid. Or, it may be that they’re difficult to acquire, they’re challenging, they’re complex.

If Soft Skills were a person, maybe you would see them as that friend that is always nice to everyone, they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, they’re the people pleasers, the ‘yes’ people, they could even be quite emotional (soft!). What if Hard Skills were a person, who would they be? Would they be a director of a company, sitting in a board room, looking intimidating, dressed in a power suit, highly qualified.

Is that accurate?

We want to challenge you on that perception and challenge the ‘normal way of thinking’. Being highly qualified for a job can be critical to your success in completing that job. For majority of roles in the workforce today, there is an element of skills that you need to know to complete the work. Take a plumber, electrician, or any trade for that matter. They must attend trade school to study and gain their skills to be proficient in their roles. Let’s look at a team member working in a supermarket. They must go through an induction or a training program to learn the requirements to fulfill their role. Take a teacher for example, they must study at university to gain their skills and subject of expertise. It’s because of these qualifications and these tangible skills that quite often, hard skills are placed at a higher value.

Do you think the teacher would be able to fulfill the duties of their role efficiently and effectively if they weren’t able to effectively communicate with their colleagues, students or even the student’s parents? Do you think the plumber would be able to fulfill the duties of their role without the ability to problem solve and manage their time?

Soft Skills Vs a Worldwide Pandemic

All of us have just gone through and continue to go through a new and challenging time throughout history with Covid-19 impacting all industries in some way. Some saw a positive impact but there were certainly some industries that saw a negative impact and continue to struggle to get back on top.

For the businesses and industries that saw a positive impact financially are now still being challenged as they’re not fully equipped, or their team members are not fully equipped to be dealing with this new situation. Take supermarkets for example. They have just gone through two to three months of trade equivalent to Christmas or the end of year, but without the planning that would traditionally go into, end of year trade. Their team that are in customer facing roles were not prepared for what they were going to be going through. Customers feeling stressed, anxious and therefore, the team are feeling unprepared, they’re feeling personally attacked in some scenarios and they’re having to resolve conflict and problem solve on the spot when they have run out of products. All without any warning, preparation, or further training even!

So, when we’re feeling challenged in a situation, what happens?… We feel stressed.

What happens when we’re stressed? We lose the ability to problem solve (*Soft Skill #1*). We panic and we’re not able to think clearly, we lose the ability to see the whole picture and strategically solve a problem because we’re so focused on the stressful situation we’re in.

What else happens when we feel stressed? A lot of the time, we forget how to communicate (*Soft Skill #2*)! Someone says something the wrong way and we have this knee jerk reaction that is, at times, an unwarranted response. We don’t feel as though we have enough time to give a thought-out response. We’re not thinking clearly so we’re not even communicating with ourselves clearly (positive thoughts and self-talk). Not to mention body language. Just imagine what our body language is communicating when we’re stressed, without us even having said a word.

When we’re not communicating effectively, there are then impacts far deeper than not understanding what someone is saying to you. Ineffective communication could go on to create conflict in the workplace and then teamwork (*Soft Skills #3*) is impacted, Time Management (*Soft Skills #4*) is impacted, which when all combined could go on to impact the client experience being delivered in a business. The domino effect can be extremely detrimental to any business.

Without well rounded and strong soft skills, delivering on your hard skills is going to be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. The two must work in conjunction with one another and we here at BOLD Training are passionate about changing the perceived value placed upon soft skills. We must not assume that all know how to effectively communicate. We must not all assume that problem solving is a skill that we all possess.

What if we started referring to soft skills as Social Skills, People Skills, Interpersonal traits? Regardless of what we refer to them as, I think we can all agree, that they’re not all that soft and they’re not all that simple. Two candidates sitting down for a job interview with the same hard skills on paper will not necessarily translate the same way in an interview setting. The candidate with well-developed ‘People Skills’ (Soft Skills), will have a distinctive upper hand on the other candidate as they’ll have the ability to convey their message clearer through effective communication as well as provide clear examples of when they’ve successfully worked well in a team environment.

If communication was simple, I’m sure we could all agree, there would be far less turmoil in the world we live in today.

So, we ask you again, are hard skills more valuable than soft skills?

We’ll let you decide.

 

BOLD’s list of Top Five Critical Soft Skills:

  1. PROBLEM SOLVING – “the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.”
  2. COMMUNICATION – “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.”
  3. TEAMWORK – “the combined action of a group, especially when effective and efficient.”
  4. TIME MANAGEMENT – “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work.”
  5. ADAPTABILITY – “the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions.”