With many businesses facing a shortage of strong talent, soft skills can set a great employee apart from a good one. Soft skills are more than just a buzz phrase. If hard skills, or technical skills, reflect what an employee does, then a soft skill, or non-technical skill, reflects how they do it. Soft skills often include leadership skills, interpersonal skills, and communication skills. For example, a call center representative or front-desk personnel might have technical skills that allow them to operate software, use technology, and analyze data. However, soft skills will allow this representative to communicate effectively with clients, successfully resolve their issues, and collaborate with team members. As the job market becomes saturated with skilled workers, adding soft skills to your hiring criteria will help you build a future-proof team for a modern workplace.
Which soft skills should you focus on for a modern workplace?
Strong communication skills are essential for success in the workplace, across all industries. With many workplaces embracing technological advancement, digital communication – by phone, email, and through social media channels – is also growing. When looking for new talent, especially in client-facing roles, consider what type of communication will be required. Are you hiring call center workers? Then the ability to speak clearly and concisely is key. With this comes confidence. Effective communication skills allow the speaker to deliver solutions, insights, and updates confidently. Additionally, the ability to speak purposefully not only benefits the customer and the representative but positively impacts your company by cutting back on call times, without sacrificing contact quality.
Being a good listener is just as important as being a good speaker. Active listening is an essential communication skill: paying close attention to what the speaker is saying, asking follow up questions, and repeating for clarification are all active listening skills that make someone a great communicator. The impact on brand perception is also important. According to Forbes, “[genuine listening] helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy.” This has a direct impact on customer retention, as well as customer acquisition through valuable referrals.
In customer service roles, having empathy means an employee understands the depth and complexity of a customer’s issue. It allows the employee to put themselves in the customer’s shoes to better support them. Empathetic people are understanding, self-aware, and collaborative. However, assessing empathy and emotional intelligence in a job interview can be challenging. Body language can be a strong indicator of empathy. Does the person maintain comfortable eye contact? Are they engaged in the conversation? Are they actively listening and mirroring? An empathetic person will make you feel at ease, patiently let you speak, and prioritize fully understanding your concerns. These are essential traits to look for, especially in customer support roles.
Strong collaboration and cooperation skills enable employees to work well with colleagues, managers, and customers. In service-oriented workplaces, collaboration is particularly important. It shows the employee’s willingness to support the customer, to clearly acknowledge issues, and to openly communicate the next steps.
Gauge a potential employee’s collaboration skills by asking about past experiences. How did they go above and beyond to support a customer? How did they fit into the structure of their last team? Ultimately understanding how the candidate relates to others is a great indicator of collaboration skills.
According to Indeed, “when employers talk about problem-solving skills, they are often referring to the ability to handle difficult or unexpected situations in the workplace as well as complex business challenges.” An employee with strong problem-solving skills knows how to effectively, and creatively find solutions to different issues. They are able to work well under pressure.
Get a better understanding of a candidate’s ability to handle different issues by asking them to outline their problem-solving process. Do they take the time to listen and research to understand the problem? Do they analyze the problem and follow up with the right people? And most importantly, do they communicate their decision clearly?
Why should a modern workplace invest in soft skills?
Assessing soft skills in potential candidates can be a challenge, but investing in a pre-hire assessment tool can help you quickly and effectively highlight the skills you are looking for. For instance, global companies such as Amazon, Infosys, and Microsoft not only test for language proficiency but also focus on identifying candidates with great communication skills. Here is why investing in soft skills pays off.
Hire and develop top-performers
Using an AI platform allows businesses to evaluate a candidate’s responses to real-life customer service calls, emails, or chat. For many organizations, this can accelerate and streamline their hiring process. Finding the right tool is crucial. Tools such as LearningBranch let you test for the soft skills that matter to you. As a result, there will be less required training and candidates who are equipped to perform optimally right off the bat.
Focus on customer satisfaction
Companies such as Amazon are devoted to customer-centricity: “[We] start with the customer and work backward. [We] work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
To provide the best experience to your customer, a focus on soft skills is essential. By partnering with a pre-hire assessment tool, you can build a team of amazing communicators, problem-solvers, and customer-oriented leaders.
Deliver results every time
Fortune 500 companies understand the importance of soft skills. In particular, Royal Dutch Shell “has developed a multipronged approach that uses work assessments, interview questions, and more to assess candidates.” Given the international reach of this company, employees need to rely on a range of soft skills to support customers from every corner of the world. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are what tie every Shell worker to a common goal: providing great service and delivering results.
How can you help employees develop modern workplace soft skills?
It’s no secret by now that selecting candidates with a strong set of soft skills can take your hiring strategy to the next level. However, continuously working with your team to improve their soft skills creates a culture of growth and learning, while helping you get closer to your business goals.
Provide training opportunities
Corey Salzer, a solutions architect at Amazon, says that “if you think you’re the smartest person in the room and are not open to learning new things, then that’s not something that fits at Amazon.” This goes for both soft skills and hard skills. Up-skilling and re-skilling are valuable opportunities that successful employers are expected to provide in today’s workplace. Parallelly, consider planning interactive sessions to practice problem-solving, providing access to webinars about emotional intelligence, or investing in a communication training tool, such as the one provided by LearningBranch.
Mix up tasks and assignments at workplace
Working on projects and tasks that are outside of their comfort zone is a great way for your team to continuously develop new soft skills. A customer-facing worker might have great communication skills, but how can they work on their leadership skills. Mentoring a new colleague would be one way to work on different soft skill sets. Alternatively, not only will your employees develop new skills, but you will build a multidimensional team that is better equipped to face all sorts of challenges.
Are you someone who likes to know exactly what your employee is working on, and how they are doing it? Take a step back. By challenging employees to work independently, you will give them the space to think creatively and critically. Additionally, provide opportunities to develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. In today’s modern workplace a strong leader is one who trusts their employees, while continuously providing support when needed.
Recognize growth at modern workplace
Most managers highlight successes, but it’s often limited to project or assignment-based goals. Thus, it is essential to take the time to monitor your employees’ development. Have they become more confident in the last year? Are they better communicators? Do they think outside of the box? Success can be more than simply hitting all your KPIs. Recognize professional and personal growth in your team, and make a point to acknowledge it!
Technical skills will always be important in the workplace, but it’s time to make room for soft skills. Thus, with the growing focus on automation and digitization, soft skills are more important than ever. Simply put, they cannot be replicated by a computer. By using the right tools to assess soft skills in the hiring process, and continuously encouraging employees to develop them on the job, your business can confidently tackle whatever comes its way.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers”
— Stephen R. Covey