We are currently in a period of uncertainty, change, technological transformation, and labor mobility.
People are unsure when or if they will return to their offices and their former work habits. The switch to remote work and virtual communication has left many feeling disconnected from their colleagues and workplaces. And many employees are leaving their jobs in search of meaning, flexibility, better management, and/or better remuneration.
At the same time, important new issues are arising in many organizations. There has been a realization of the importance of increasing diversity and improving inclusion. Organizations are also recognizing the need to provide a sustainable work environment to protect the health and performance of their team members over the long term. Managers are being asked to both produce results and care for their team members’ needs, and they often struggle with their own fatigue from these competing demands.
Soft skills to the rescue!
All of these factors make it important for individuals and organizations to increase their development of behavioral competencies, also known as soft skills, to develop their flexibility, empathy, engagement, and interpersonal skills. These transferable skills can be used in a wide variety of positions and situations, making them a valuable asset in finding and keeping a job, recruiting and retaining employees, and staying motivated and engaged at work.
What are soft skills?
At Praditus, our definition of soft skills, which we refer to as competencies, is derived from Praditus co-founder Andrés Davíla’s research on intercultural competencies in companies. He and his co-author state that these skills are what makes it possible to apply one’s knowledge, will, and ability to act without causing negative impacts on one’s own performance and wellbeing or on others and the organization.
Soft skills are essential elements in professional success and mobility. These competencies are a unique set of social skills that reflect each person’s ability to adapt to various situations. Depending on their work environment, context, social interactions, and challenges, each individual exhibits a set of soft skills that are important to better identify in order to facilitate development. It is important for individuals and organizations to understand the soft skills necessary for a given situation so that these skills can be coached, developed, and encouraged.
Soft skills are behaviors that are transferable to a variety of work situations. They often involve one’s orientation to oneself, one’s work, and others, whether the skill is self-awareness, time management, or effective communication. We often distinguish between hard skills—the kind of finite skills taught in school or training programs, like how to perform a quality check or write code—and soft skills. However, many now argue that these distinctions are now meaningless because soft skills are not, as their name might indicate, fluffy and unnecessary extras. Behavioral skills are often the key factor in being selected for a job, keeping and advancing in a job, and successfully moving into new roles.
Why are soft skills important?
Soft skills give people the tools they need to adapt to and thrive in different situations, at work or in their private lives. In the current moment, soft skills make it possible to adapt to change, take a positive attitude toward technology, remain curious about the evolving situation, and show empathy even over video calls.
Soft skills enhance hard skills, making it easier to share and highlight those skills with others through communication, collaboration, and persuasion. We call soft skills transferable skills for a reason: while new hard skills are generally necessary in a new job, people’s ability to collaborate with others, keep themselves organized, and manage their stress are as valid in one job as in another.
Soft skills are often what help people succeed in management and leadership roles, where their individual technical skills are less important than their ability to delegate, motivate their team members, and prioritize work. We all have areas where we could manage ourselves, our teams, our work, and/or our time better, and soft skills are the way to make those improvements.
Can soft skills be learned?
Although some soft skills may feel more natural than others to people, it is absolutely possible to learn and develop new soft skills. However, learning soft skills means developing a new behavior or changing an old one, and this requires motivation, realism, and planning. The best way to do it is to take small, regular steps to more easily adjust to the behavior change and make adjustments and improvements. Anyone who has quit a bad habit like smoking or tried to add a new habit like regular exercise knows that forming new habits requires discipline, support, self-compassion, and a clear desired outcome.
At Praditus, we help people create clear and specific goals in their soft-skills development and help them find ways to practice their new behavioral habits in small but concrete ways so that they can see real progress and be motivated to continue learning.
What are the soft skills that people will need in 2023?
Despite some general trends, we are all in different situations that require different soft skills. Here we present some common situations that individuals and leaders may find themselves in and the soft skills that they may find helpful to develop over the next year.
For HR and leadership
You want to retain your team members by creating an engaging employee experience
Employees of all ages and at all levels have been rethinking what is important to them at work. To retain them, it is important to create a work environment in which they have rewarding social interactions, clear and engaging work tasks, and a comfortable and frictionless work environment. Some of the soft skills that help in creating this experience include:
- Creating a culture of belonging: Fostering an environment that celebrates diversity and inclusion and makes all employees feel welcome and valued.
- Creating meaning in work: Creating clear links between work tasks and the values of the organization and its members.
- Building trust and psychological security: Creating an atmosphere that makes it possible to share ideas and voice disagreements without fear of repercussions.
You want to create a work environment that will improve your team’s well-being
The past two years have shown us that mental and physical health are essential to an engaged and productive workforce. These skills will help you make 2023 a year of healthy employees, a healthy work environment, and healthy performance:
- Promoting a sustainable work environment: Allocating work and providing growth opportunities to create an atmosphere that encourages long-term productivity.
- Managing uncertainty: Providing honesty, transparency, and support in situations of change and uncertainty.
- Prioritizing mental health: Accepting and destigmatizing mental health issues, providing access to support and counseling, and recognizing situations that might exacerbate mental health crises.
- Balancing empathy and privacy: Showing caring and understanding of team members without prying into their personal lives or health histories.
For individuals at all levels
You want to balance work and life demands better
Over the past two years, many people have seen the boundaries between their work and private life erode, finding it difficult to both switch off from work and find periods of full focus on work. Making a fresh start in 2023 can mean resetting boundaries for more satisfaction at work and at home. These skills can help:
- Saying no: Setting clear priorities for the work that creates the most value and brings you the most satisfaction and eliminating less valuable tasks and responsibilities.
- Finding focus: Finding ways to manage interruptions and digital distraction and making room for periods of focused and satisfying work.
- Finding meaning in work: Looking at your work through the lens of how it furthers your values and priorities.
- Being realistic: Accepting the areas of your work and work environment that you have no power over, whether people, constraints, or inconveniences. This can help you reserve your energy for the areas of your work you can control.
You want to be ready for potential future changes
The past years have taught us that nothing is certain but change. 2023 could bring new technology, new job responsibilities, and/or transformation in your organization. These soft skills can help you feel more prepared and confident:
- Managing technology responsibly: Incorporating new technology that adds value and efficiency to your work while avoiding technology that could harm the privacy, security, and/or productivity of you or others.
- Continuous development and learning: Seeking out ways to build your skills and satisfy your curiosity, whether through formal or informal learning and training opportunities.
- Managing change: Understanding, accepting, and finding opportunity in the changes occurring in your career or your organization.
- Reviving and reframing networks: Reaching out to people you know—or would like to know—with the understanding that networks are as much about relationships as they are about career enhancement.
Soft skills are essential to boost your career and well-being in the next year and those to come. With the right motivation and commitment, you can develop any soft skill that is important to you. Which soft skills would help make 2023 a better year for you?