Employers want soft skills in the workplace

Soft skills are a catch-all term referring to various behaviours that help people work and socialise well with others. In short, they are good manners, the ability to read the feelings of others, and emotional intelligence.  They are personality traits that give us a good work ethic, leadership skills, problem-solving abilities and strong communication techniques.  Such as communicating with one another, writing, speaking, convergent thinking. Unlike hard skills which include a person’s technical skillset and ability to perform certain functional and technical tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job roles and industries. It is often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to keep the job. 

Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center have all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

Here are 5 examples of soft skills that employers seek: 

#1 Courtesy. Courtesy can mean being polite and thoughtful, showing good manners, or being kind. For example, when you show courtesy to someone, you usually offer them something they need or something that will help them out or you pre-empt something that they may need. Thinking of others and showing compassion also fall in this category.

#2 Being flexible. The ability to adapt to change and new situations quickly and willingly and quickly. Thinking ahead and going with the flow. 

#3 Team skills. Knowing how to effectively work in groups, to listen to others, and to value other opinions. Making yourself useful and thinking collaboratively shows your team that you are a valuable asset.

#4 Positive work ethic and attitude. Having belief in the moral value of work, being diligent and with a desire to do a good job and get the job done efficiently. Being productive, on time and setting a good example for other team members.

#5 Common sense. Good judgement is based on experience rather than theory. Understanding the business and it’s needs, knowing and learning what to do in various situations and handling them in line with the companies ethos.

How do employers feel about ‘Soft Skills’?

According to a recent McKinsey study, 40 percent of employers said they have difficulty filling vacancies because younger workers lack soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and punctuality. Millennials, in particular, seem to struggle with soft skills. 

Employers feel that having the technical skills to execute the job is only one part of succeeding in the workplace. The millennial generation, those roughly 30 or younger, need more work on their soft skills and being connected through smart technology and digital devices may be doing more harm than good. Soft skills are intuitive and can’t be learnt from devices.  That’s why it’s important if you are looking for a new role to enhance you soft skills as much as your technical abilities. Ensure that it is well documented and explained in your resume.


A survey of more than 650 employers and over 1,500 current and former college students was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Cengage. The survey revealed soft skills are most in-demand by employers (by at least 65 percent), while quantitative skills and computer and technical skills were less so (47 percent and 50 percent, respectively).

“In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.”

Daniel Goleman. Psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. Tweet

How Employers Use Soft Skills to Judge Potential Employees.

Employers are usually faced with a situation where the candidate’s resume does not highlight or outline their soft skills. A resume only conveys a limited amount of information about who the candidate really is and their character. Most resumes do not show soft skills which are fast becoming one of the most important parts of the hiring process. 

When employers judge character, they do not do so based on formulas and mathematical equations. The employer makes this assessment by first impressions observing if the candidate has shown up on time and if they are polite and respectful and often where they have worked before. This translates to basic behaviours at the workplace; for instance, when tasks are assigned – will they follow up, are they friendly with others, have they applied attention to detail. 

Employees can also get promotions or get fired based on their ability to work in teams, communicate and organise. 

Some of the best ways to develop soft skills for a career

Building soft skills lead to building a more harmonious workplace, as well as job happiness and satisfaction. Most people focus on hard skills, technological skills, and other skills that are specifically related to getting our work-related tasks done. Unfortunately, development of this kind often happens at the expense of soft skills. This is not ideal and, as the evidence indicates, you need soft skills wherever you go. 

There are ways to implement training for soft skills at the workplace through:

  • One on One coaching 
  • Team building 
  • Activities based on a case study, and  
  • Virtual reality.  

Virtual reality has become a popular option as more and more people are working remotely, and not all managers have the time to train their employees on soft skills. Virtual reality training involves creating real-life situations in a stress-free environment. Using virtual reality with in-person activities is a good way to increase the likelihood of the learner applying what they learnt in real life. When soft skills are learnt it allows employees to effectively relate to each other and, from an employers perspective, working on developing soft skills can help career prospects.     

Contact Recruitment Central to find out how to differentiate candidates in a competitive job market.

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