All successful businesses have assets that contribute to their success including real estate, financial assets, production equipment, and technology. But most business leaders would say that their employees are actually their best asset, the thing that really separates the business from its competitors, beyond strong leadership, loyal customers, and high-quality goods and services. Clearly, great employees must have the requisite hard skills, but today’s employees must increasingly possess critical soft skills.
Hard Skills Versus Soft Skills
Hard skills are the specific and measurable technical or “production” skills required for each individual position or role. For example, the skills required for an accountant to file taxes, or the skills for a human resources manager to process payroll. Soft skills are the personal qualities or characteristics that employees possess that enable them to contribute significantly to the good of the enterprise. A study conducted by Stanford Research International found that 75 percent of an employee’s success was attributed to soft skills.
Why Soft Skills Are Important for Business Success
Soft skills are important for business success because they improve decision-making, they help drive positive change, and they contribute to a healthier working environment. They also lead to solving problems more efficiently, they improve employee retention, and they contribute to improved customer service. And importantly, soft skills contribute to increased sales.
What Soft Skills Matter Most
Some of the most important soft skills are:
- Emotional intelligence. Components of this include self-awareness, or understanding and controlling one’s own emotions, self-motivation, empathy, or knowing and feeling what others are feeling, and the social ability to apply these emotional skills to make personal relationships productive.
- Communications skills. This means being able to communicate and interact effectively with customers and team members. Aspects of this include confidence, tact, active listening, and clarity.
- Team player. Being able to work well with others includes the skills of collaboration, being open to feedback and new ideas, and valuing different perspectives.
- Having a growth mindset. This means being proactive to learn and seize new opportunities, and to work on individual weaknesses.
- Integrity. This means having ethical behavior and taking responsibility for one’s own mistakes as well as their successes, and being trustworthy.
- Adaptability and resilience. This means being open-minded enough to embrace change and new challenges.
- Time management. This means planning and managing time well to meet deadlines. It also implies respecting the time needs of others.
- Creativity. This suggests having the imagination and flexibility to come up with new ideas and solutions to improve the work of the company.
Other important soft skills include having a good work ethic, a positive attitude, the desire and ability to resolve conflicts, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
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