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Softskills: What They Are and Why They Matter

softskills

In this post, I want to help you realise that you have far more skills than you give yourself credit for, and I’d like to help you see how you can capitalise on them.

Do you often wonder how a colleague manages to get the time off they need or how they seem to agree more favourable deals than you? Do you get frustrated with social media and how your friends seem always to be out and about having a great time, and they seem to hardly ever work. I’ll show you why it appears this way and, I hope in researching this piece, I will also be able to learn more about how I can improve.

On my commute this morning to my client, I listened to the CIM podcast, “Are we facing a soft skills crisis?” (Episode 46), and it’s set me thinking about soft skills and how they are often overlooked in the workplace, in fact not just in the workplace but in life. When I started to look at this range of skills, I realised that they are, without a doubt, amongst the skills I most admire in those others.

Who cares about soft skills?

We should all care about soft skills, but, as an employer, they particularly concern me. The podcast title referring to a soft skills crisis seemed a little dramatic, but it is easy to see how we have got here. Think about how the pandemic has meant we have been working from home. The young people who would have seen our behaviours within the office modelled when they joined the company are not seeing those in practice now. For example, how we answer the phone is not just about the words we use but the tone of our voice. At this point, I start to feel very old and ponder whether I was ever taught soft skills or whether I just picked them up as I went along. I don’t remember, but I recognise that we have a responsibility to help our colleagues develop the soft skills they need to navigate the workplace.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the skills we take for granted, something you can pick up quickly, which you can integrate into your life easily. We don’t often have training in soft skills; these are usually the things we learn from our peers or mentors modelling these behaviours, which we will observe and learn from if we are savvy enough.

If you want to get ahead in the business world, one of the skills you need to get to grips with is communication. You need to have a way of communicating what you want to the people around you, and more importantly, you need to be able to get their buy-in. Whether you choose to persuade people or negotiate a solution, this is where good communication skills come in.

Coffees with friends or lunch meetings with colleagues are good ways to practice your communication and negotiation skills. They can be much less stressful than formal meetings or interviews. Every conversation you have, whether with the receptionist at your office building or with colleagues at the water cooler, are an opportunity to hone your skills and get better at the art of communication.


How do soft skills differ from hard skills?

A ‘skill’ is something we acquire by practise or training. It can be relatively easy to learn but hard to master. So by this definition, a ‘hard skill’ requires training and practice to master and often as a result of long term learning. A great example would be an entrepreneur starting up their own business or playing tennis.

Both require a level of expertise and skill; however, as they work towards reaching a higher level of knowledge and proficiency, they may develop soft skills along the way, such as problem solving, resilience, discipline and teamwork.

Why do soft skills matter?

According to LinkedIn, people who demonstrate soft skills are a natural fit for positions of influence within organisations and the world at large. By spending a short time on their LinkedIn profiles, you will see how some professionals and organisations recognise that these skills are essential. However, if they are not actively nurtured, they become dormant and could be lost.

Soft skills are essential for organisations not only because they are essential for success but also because they drive your colleagues’ confidence, colleagues’ relationships with customers, suppliers, and even business leaders. Research has also shown that these skills are hard to quantify and are therefore undervalued in business.

Why Communication Skills are King

It all boils down to communication skills. We all know that communication is vital in any organisation, but often it is overlooked. As a result, we tend to develop other skills, which come at a very high cost. Poor communication can leave colleagues with the impression we have fewer skills. 

Communication is sometimes a challenge for young people in particular who may feel intimidated by more experienced colleagues in the workplace. To develop our communication skills, we need to observe those around us, understand the benefits of good communication, and why it is so important. That has been a particular challenge throughout the pandemic. If we lose communication skills in the workplace or in life, we become less effective and may experience increased stress and worry or lower confidence.

Our ability to communicate is key to our business at Bellyflop. We pride ourselves on being able to share our clients messages effectively, conveying their stories and messages in the most effective way possible. It is true that anyone can make a video but ensuring the video delivers the results you need takes skill but, for those who are naturally gifted and articulate we have tools available to help them share their messages and highlight the benefit of their brand.

A quick and easy to use self service video platform...

Teamwork and Collaboration Skills

As marketers, we spend a lot of time working with others. Whether working with a client or with our team, we need to work well with others.

I know that for many people, teamwork and collaboration can sometimes be a challenge. It can be a challenge to divide the workload so each party feels they can contribute and demonstrate their hard skills whilst ensuring all have a fair amount of the task.

I understand how difficult it can be, as there are times where I feel I am unable to work efficiently with other people.

As a business owner, I can work more autonomously, but I recognise teamwork’s benefits.


Leadership and Management Skills 

The ability to understand people, their psychology and how to manage a group transparently and effectively is one of the highest levels of management that many of us will attain.

Although we may think it’s easy in theory, this one requires significant investment and preparation.
Delivering a team led project from concept to completion will enable us to show our people the value of what they do and the value we place on their hard skills.

The key to getting the best results is to become a people leader and not a manager.

These skills can help you as well as being able to influence others; you will also be able to influence the environment of the workplace, potentially driving the overall culture in the organisation.

softskills

Conclusion

If you have never considered your soft skills an asset, I will encourage you to evaluate them with a soft skills SWOT analysis. Understanding where your strengths and weaknesses lie will help you improve. If you want to be the person that is successful and manages to get things done and win in negotiations, then improving your soft skills will be a great start.

People who can entertain and people who can be the life of the party are probably the most undervalued. People who can make you smile, people who can listen and communicate and who are good at networking are high on the list of those I admire most.

If you think of some people you know, I challenge you to consider whether your skills are as good as theirs and whether you could learn to be as good or better than them.

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