Soft Skills in the Workplace

March 9, 2020 at 8:49 AM Tags: Soft Skills

Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities, such as writing, reading, math or ability to use computer programs. By contrast, soft skills are the traits that make you a good employee, such as etiquette, communication and listening, getting along with other people. So rather than thinking of hard and soft skills independently of each other, it appears that improving soft skills can lead to a growth in hard skills, which you might want to keep in mind when looking for ways to improve your chances of getting a job.

How Important are Soft Skills?

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In a study from Wonderlic, 93% of employers rated soft skills as either “essential” or “very important.” In another survey, employers rated soft skills like the ability to work in a team ahead of traditional “hard” skills. At the same time, this LinkedIn data revealed that 59% of hiring managers believe it’s difficult to find candidate with sufficient soft skills.

There’s a Strong Desire to Measure Soft Skills.

Hiring managers want to know whether or not candidates are equipped with soft skills. Employers want the ability to quantify which team members have the “right” soft skills to excel and contribute fully. Employees want the ability to assess leaders and managers with more than a “gut feel” about them.

How Can You Measure Soft Skills?

They’re intangible, poorly defined, subjective, interpersonal, situational, and squishy. They’re related to emotions and relationships. They don’t show up on resumes and reviews. They aren’t taught in college courses or vocational schools. Unlike function-specific hard skills, there aren’t cause-and-effect outcomes that can be directly linked to soft skills. Demonstrating mastery of a soft skill isn’t as simple as following a step-by-step guide.

It begs the questions: should soft skills be measured? If so, how? Soft skills are extremely important and increasingly lacking in employees. Measuring them when hiring IS a good business practice. But how?

The Right Way to Measure Soft Skills.

 As with all business metrics, the best practice is to measure only what matters. Once you’ve determined, by job, what’s necessary, you’ll determine the best way to measure soft skills of the employees in that role. Just like hard skills, the soft skills you need will vary by job. They should be in the job description, in the hiring process, on the performance review, and talked about in routine feedback. If they are truly job requirements that are worth measuring, they need to be identified in advance and baked into all your people practices.

Developing a consistent and fair way to measure soft skills is easier when it’s job-specific and clearly linked to job performance. Once the links are clear, you can better identify and convey what the actual expectations are. This is where a rubric approach comes into play.

A rubric is a scoring guide used to evaluate performance. It has criteria to be evaluated, a rating scale, and indicators.

With a rubric, you’ll pick the soft skills that are absolutely essential for a job. You’ll describe what they look like in practice. And you’ll assign a points-based system for evaluating demonstration of soft skills. Instead of “good listener,” you’ll have three descriptions that differentiate between poor listening, good listening, and exceptional listening. An evaluator can objectively assess which of the three examples is the closest match to the behaviors demonstrated by the employee. This is more objective than other ways of measuring soft skills. It also provides a blueprint for employees about what to aim for.

7 Soft Skills You Need to be Successful!

1. Leadership Skills.

Companies want employees who can supervise and direct other workers. They want employees who can cultivate relationships up, down, and across the organizational chain; assess, motivate, encourage, and discipline workers; build teams, resolve conflicts, and help to create the desired culture.

2. Teamwork.

Most employees are part of a team/department/division, and even those who are not on an official team need to collaborate with other employees. You may prefer to work alone, but it’s important to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the value of joining forces and working in partnership with others to accomplish the company’s goals.

3. Communication Skills.

Successful communication involves five components . Verbal communication refers to your ability to speak clearly and concisely. Nonverbal communication includes the capacity to project positive body language and facial expressions. Aural communication is the ability to listen to and actually hear what others are saying. Written communication refers to your skillfulness in composing text messages, reports, and other types of documents. And visual communication involves your ability to relay information using pictures and other visual aids.

4. Problem Solving Skills.

Many people shirk from problems because they don’t understand that companies hire employees to solve problems. Glitches, bumps in the road, and stumbling blocks are a part of the job. The ability to use your knowledge to find answers to pressing problems and formulate workable solutions will demonstrate that you can handle – and excel in – your job.

5. Work Ethic.

While you may have a manager, companies don’t like to spend time micromanaging employees. They expect you to be responsible and do the job that you’re getting paid to do, which includes being punctual when you arrive at work, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your work is error free. And going the extra mile shows that you’re committed to performing your work with excellence. 

6. Flexibility/Adaptability.

Companies don’t like to spend time micromanaging employees. They expect you to be responsible and do the job that you’re getting paid to do, which includes being punctual when you arrive at work, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your work is error free. And going the extra mile shows that you’re committed to performing your work with excellence.

7. Interpersonal Skills.

This is a broad category of “people skills” and includes the ability to build and maintain relationships, develop rapport, and use diplomacy. It also includes the ability to give and receive constructive criticism, be tolerant and respectful regarding the opinions of others, and empathize with them.

Measuring soft skills requires soft skills. That’s why it all starts with you, the manager, developing your own soft skills and modeling them to others.

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Written by Alison.B