The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace
I had the occasion to watch a counter clerk in a fast food restaurant recently. It was obvious that this person did not want to be there at that time. Neither did the customers, as a result. The ability to interact effectively with customers and co-workers is one of the “soft skills” that are becoming harder to find in employees.
Soft skills are positive personal attributes that can enhance an individual’s performance both on the job and in life, as opposed to hard skills, which are the skills required to perform the occupational requirements of a position. Other soft skills include: communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution.
When I was a hiring manager in a previous situation, I would make my first cut of résumés based on the applicants’ documented skills, experience, and abilities. Then my interview process focused entirely on what soft skills the prospective employee possessed. I usually hired the person whose soft skills were superior, even if their hard skills were weaker than other candidates’. It is far easier to teach an individual the missing hard skills than it is the missing soft skills. These soft skills are what usually define an employee’s ability to be successful on the job and be an asset to the organization.
Soft skills are not learned in a classroom or within a defined period of time. Rather, they are something that an individual learns, hones, and improves throughout their lifetime, and with the help of a mentor. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked or ignored as not being as valuable as the hard skills. Seek out opportunities to improve your soft skills; this will improve your value to an employer and will improve your ability to be successful.
Paul Batchelder is a computer science and accounting instructor at the Fort Collins campus of CollegeAmerica.