Soft skills are one of the most pertinent topicsin the corporate world, especially considering how employers place them as invaluable considerations for recruitment today. According to a TimesJobs survey, about 60% employers feel soft skills are ‘very significant’ while hiring. However,a majority of them (70%) find it extremely difficult to find these skills in potential employees.

There is a peripheral understanding regarding the importance of soft skills among job hunters and the employed alike. This is becausethey lose out on developing key skills such as teamwork, adaptability, creativity, and interpersonal skills while solely focusing on developing hard skills. Many of us may simply know that soft skills are important, but do we know where and why the term originated? Perhaps the following historical insight would push us further to work towards attaining soft skills.

Soft skills’ can be traced back to the US Military amidst the Vietnam War between 1968 and 1972. They came to a conclusion that despite investing heavily in training troops to use machines, they hadn’t trained them to work as a group; which was important because they noticed that victory depended heavily on how troops were led. Paul G Whitmore derived three criteria from his research studies on judging whether a skill is ‘soft’ or ‘hard’:

  1. a) Degree of interaction with a machine
  2. b) Degree of specificity of behaviour to be performed
  3. c) Typical kind of on-the-job situation.

Excerpt from the CONARC Soft Skills Conference Report, 1973.

Understanding that the US Military invented the term ‘soft skills’, and the importance they laid on them for the effective function of troops, this importance has been translated to the

corporate world, and rightfully so. However, the majority of training we undertake at school or work is technical-oriented, leading to immense untapped potential among employees today.

Let us now understand the key soft skills that need to be attained to live up to our true potentials as human resources.

  • Teamwork: Working as and within a team requires a balance between leadership and apprentice. It is about leading or carrying the team during a lack of direction or purpose, sharing the responsibility, and even learning from others within. Good team players are consistent, perceptive, and receptive to the needs and responsibilities of others, while being willing to sacrifice personal wishes (to an extent), for the greater good of the team.
  • Adaptability:This particular soft skill would not have been relevant a decade ago, but the modern corporate world involves variable assignments that require employees to adjust to the requirement. Adapting to changes and managing multiple tasks is a revered and invaluable skill; a mark of a trustworthy employee. This means employees must take the onus of picking up new technologies, adjust to changing business surroundings, and displaying relevancy in the workforce. Richard Branson famously said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
  • Creativity: According to a LinkedIn survey, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill in 2019. Even when weighing both soft and hard skills, it came in at second behind on the list. It is not merely about artistic pursuits, but also solving problems with relevance and innovating thinking. Observation, open mindedness, risk taking, brainstorming, and critical thinking are the key elements to creativity.
  • Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are a gamut of soft skills which help create and sustain connections with and among people. Listening, friendliness, patience, warmth, sociability, empathy, sense of humour in both written and oral communication are different yet pertinent interpersonal skills for employees today. Excelling in even a few of such skills is the hallmark of a model employee.

In conclusion

Hard skills can only take employees so far, while soft skills isthe pedestal they need to scale further heights. Employees will have to introspect on the soft skills that are pertinent to their own work atmospheres and take a proactive approach in working towards them. This will not only make them a revered player within the company but also pave way for them to become key industry players.

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