Soft skills can feel vague at first glance - fluffy or trivial even. But once you dig deeper, you'll find that they're anything but. The term soft skills was coined in The US army back in the 1960s to describe any skill that does not employ the use of machinery. The military realised that many of the essential elements of winning a battle fall under social or interpersonal skills and wanted to study them more - skills such as communication, leading a group and motivating soldiers. Pretty obvious connection to modern work-life, no? Let's take a closer look at soft skills first, and if you make it to the end, you get a chance to sign up for our free soft skills certification course!
What are soft skills?
Soft skills can be defined as non-technical and interpersonal skills such as communication, adaptability, creativity, teamwork and critical thinking. Soft skills encompass your personality and cognitive ability - all the qualities essential in making decisions, interacting with colleagues and performing workplace tasks.
Hard skills include your technical know-how and professional qualifications such as CV and education. They are a good starting point, but just like in the army, it's not enough that you can operate a cannon; you also need strong communication, collaboration and other soft skills to win the battle. In essence, hard skills determine whether you can do a job, but soft skills determine how you do it.
"Soft skills drive how you work on your own and with others, how you think and learn and how you respond to challenges and demands."
Dr Alan Redman - Head of science & Tech @ Clevry
Why are soft skills important?
The hard demand for soft skills is largely driven by rapid technological change, as automation and AI have reduced the need for certain jobs requiring hard skills. This has increased the value of soft skills in jobs where humans are still needed.
Another thing that makes soft skills so valuable is that they are highly transferrable, meaning they are not specific to a certain job role. Hard skills can be taught and obtained through training, and having the right soft skills makes learning that much easier.
According to a LinkedIn report, 91% of hiring managers and talent professionals say soft skills are very important to the future of recruiting and HR, and 89% say that bad hires typically lack soft skills. Furthermore, the same report concludes that 57% of companies struggle to assess soft skills accurately. 68% of respondents say that social cues in the interview process are their primary method of assessing soft skills - not very scientific.
I think it's safe to say that 100% of companies list soft skills in their job ads. "We're looking for a motivated team player with excellent communication skills." Sounds familiar? Yet, many organisations leave assessing them in a structured way to chance.
While hard skills determine if we can meet the basic technical demands to do the job, it's the soft skills that drive success and predict future job performance. Why is it so hard to measure soft skills in a structured way, then?
The challenge of measuring soft skills
It’s easier to determine whether someone can handle their spreadsheets or if they can write code than their interpersonal skills. Hard skills are more tangible qualities that you can demonstrate on your CV or in a portfolio. Soft skills are less concrete and intangible, so measuring them effectively requires more systematic methods.
Implementing psychometric assessments, such as personality questionnaires and cognitive ability tests, into your recruitment process helps you spot the critical soft skills in candidates, compare candidates objectively and identify the right match for the role. Assessments combined with a structured interview provide a rounded view of the candidates, tapping into all the essential attributes to succeed in the job.
Presenting... The Clevry Soft Skills Certification course
Part of our broader mission at Clevry is to help companies and individuals find joy at work. We believe this is best achieved by understanding how soft skills drive individual and organisational success. Hence, we've launched a soft skills certification course that is completely free to join for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of soft skills.
The course is led by our magnificent Organisational Psychologists, Dr Alan Redman and Laura Harrison. Alan and Laura are soft skills experts sharing their extensive knowledge amassed over the years on this engaging three-module online course. After completing the course and the final exams, you'll get a certification badge and diploma to prove your understanding of how soft skills impact work. Pretty neat, eh?
Ready to future-proof yourself? Read more and sign up for the course below, and don't forget to invite your colleagues!