You may have heard that new graduates lack the soft skills required for career success for at least a decade. While some school districts are teaching soft skills, others are allowing their students to lag even further behind.

The younger students are when these skills are taught, the better it is for them. This is because soft skills improve graduation rates, grades, and behavior. However, late is certainly better than never when it comes to learning soft skills.

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

A large percentage of the population finish their formal schooling with inadequate soft skills which hinders their ability to achieve their potential. Employees who haven’t mastered soft skills are more likely to engage in conflict at work, including being uncivil and engaging in workplace bullying. They are also more likely to experience the personal drama that interferes with their ability to be fully present each day.

When a child’s parents weren’t successful, a lack of soft skills often contributed to their failures, which means they aren’t able to teach their child skills they didn’t possess. In 2018, LinkedIn published a Learning in the Workplace report that states, “Training for soft skills is the #1 priority for talent development in 2018.”

I would say it is the #1 priority for the foreseeable future. I sometimes wonder how big a role this plays in the widening gap between the economic classes. Have we missed a key ingredient that would help people move beyond the poverty of their youth?

I know a lot of successful people whose families were poor when they were children. All of them have great social and emotional learning skills. Research shows this idea might be on the right track. When compared to control groups, students who learn soft skills experience improved outcomes. Sadly, soft skills are not taught in most schools; even fewer colleges teach these critical skills.

What Can We Do About This?

In a tight labor market, an awareness that increasing an employee’s soft skills can transform a mediocre employee into a rising star is valuable information. These skills not only transform individuals, but they can also transform teams into cohesive groups with far less discord than teams that lack social and emotional skills experience. Given the cost of hiring and firing, even in a good labor market, teaching your employees skills that increase their value to the organization has merits.

How many times have you had to fire someone because they lacked social skills versus technical skills?

When teams learn social skills as a group, it can work miracles for team loyalty and cohesion.

Test this claim by talking to someone who has taken their personal self-development journey seriously by asking them about the relationships they developed with those who shared the journey with them. There is something special about relationships that develop when you work together to learn how to achieve more of your potential.

Soft skills include personal and social competencies. Many of the skills are included in Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Model but new information about beneficial soft skills is emerging.’

The Top Ten Job Skills

Psychological flexibility appeared on the Future of Jobs Report as a new Top Ten Job Skill in 2020. The main reason is that psychological flexibility allows a person to more easily deal with change. Since the pace of change has sped up with no end in sight, the importance of psychological flexibility increased.

Top Ten Job Skills in 2020 Top Ten Job Skills in 2015
Stayed on the list:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Judgment and decision making
  7. Service Orientation
  8. Ability to negotiate
On the 2015 list:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Coordinating with others
  3. People Management
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Ability to negotiate
  6. Service Orientation
  7. Judgment and decision making
  8. Creativity
New Skills:

  1. Emotional Intelligence
  2. Cognitive (psychological) Flexibility
Off the 2020 list:

  1. Quality Control
  2. Active listening
Source: World Economic Forum Report (Future of Jobs Report)

Social competencies are more important than ever, partially due to how divisive the world now seems. While great strides have been made in diversity with respect to race and gender, political affiliation has created a new divide fueled by the media’s fanning of the flames. Individuals who lack social competencies struggle to work beside individuals whose politics differ from their own. Differences of opinion are not being respected as personal choices as they once were; they are now frequently viewed as character flaws.

Psychological flexibility can help with the political divide, too. The political divide is fueled by black and white thinking. Assertions that assume someone’s political affiliations check specific boxes about their beliefs and character comes from a lack of cognitive flexibility. Increasing psychological flexibility can help ease the tension between individuals who belong to different political parties.

Soft skills help employees achieve success and learn. They also reduce stress. Across the country, 19% of the population suffers from anxiety. Increasing social skills helps individuals feel more confident in working with others. Less anxiety makes employees more capable of speaking up. You could have an employee with a groundbreaking idea that would take your company to the next level but, because they are anxious, they may remain quiet.

The good news is that soft skills can be learned at any age. Companies are using a variety of techniques to help employees develop soft skills using everything from books to seminars to retreats.

Developing soft skills is just one way executives can have an impact on their overall workplace culture. To learn more and start doing the work to transform your internal culture, click here to download our free workbook.