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Why Soft Skills are Important in the Workplace

why soft skills are important in the workplace

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and tactfully in the interpersonal domain. Employees with strong soft skills will find themselves better able to fit in at work, cooperate well with their colleagues, and provide meaningful leadership when in positions of influence. Soft skills ensure that employees are able to operate well within their team, division, and the wider organisation, which is increasingly important in the globalised and decentralised workforces of the 21st century.

Those lacking in soft skills will often find themselves in conflict with their colleagues, direct reports, or managers. Their lack of soft skills will often manifest in misinterpreted signals, miscommunications, and often direct conflict with other team members, reducing office morale and negatively impacting their well-being. In roles that require significant social interaction with customers, clients, or outside stakeholders, soft skills become even more important, as soured relationships can result in tangible financial losses for the employing organisation.

Soft skills are a common core competency when hiring staff that engage in social interaction, which when you think about it is most roles.

Why Soft Skills Matter

Soft skills are essential to performance in any role which involves significant interpersonal interaction, either with internal staff or external customers / stakeholders. For example, customer service staff are required to tactfully interact with people, often people who are frustrated and confrontational. Soft skills would enable customer service executives to carefully handle confrontation, manage potentially problematic customers, and ensure a positive outcome for both the customer and the business. However, if the customer service executive does not have strong soft skills, customer relationships will almost certainly be soured, which will result in the loss of business for the organisation a whole.

Soft skills are essential to performance in any role which involves interpersonal interaction.

As a competency, social skills are common performance criteria for roles that require tactful interpersonal communication. These include, but are not limited to: managers, executives, sales staff, customer service executives, management consultants, legal professionals, public relations staff, and human resources professionals. As a general rule, the more social interaction the role involves, and the higher the stakes of that social interaction, the more important soft skills become, and the more dangerous it becomes to hire staff who lack in those essential soft skills for that particular role.

How to Assess Candidates on their Soft Skills

Soft skills as psychological constructs fall under the category of behavioural traits and are thus underpinned by a range of important personality traits. For example, personality traits such as extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional intelligence all strongly underpin a person’s soft skills and thus will be critical when trying to assess candidates on these soft skills. The academic research in occupational psychology suggest that these personality traits are predictive of performance in roles that involve significant interpersonal interaction, supporting their use in employee selection and assessment.

Although interviews are often used to gauge a candidate’s soft skills, only certain skills can be evaluated using the interview method. Assertiveness for example, is quite well expressed through an interview, as is a person’s ability to answer questions particularly. However, traits more aligned to agreeableness and emotional intelligence are not easily assessed using the interview method, and thus must be measured using a well designed personality questionnaire.

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Article by

Ben Schwencke

Ben is responsible for client delivery work at Test Partnership and usually serves as the main client of contact. He holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is a registered test user of ability and personality testing.

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