As work becomes more robotic, we must learn to become more human. And soft skills are key to remaining competitive in the increasingly automated workplace. Here are the five most sought-after soft skills and a guide to helping your employees develop them.
Successful sport coaches focus on a player’s strengths, not their weaknesses, and it is common knowledge that triumphs come from a motivational and inclusive training environment. Off the field, a similar approach can also be beneficial. In a fast-moving economy and tech-focused workforce, it is prudent to pay close attention to an individual’s soft skills, which are becoming increasingly important.
How can you help your employees develop the necessary attributes to stay competitive and ensure a company’s success? Research by LinkedIn has narrowed down the skills to focus on, insight that can help you build a workforce fit for the future.
Here are the soft skills that you should be looking for in people and helping develop in order to create an environment that maximises human capital.
Creativity is not something you either have or you do not. Anyone can get creative juices flowing. To keep brains active, bring in interesting speakers or put on classes that allow people to think differently and try out new skills.
When creating a personal development plan, work with your employee to see how they can incorporate inspirational rituals into their day, such as listening to music or reading.
Setting time aside to be creative can have a powerful impact on your business. Google gives engineers up to 20% of their time doing their day job to work on creative projects, an initiative that sparked the idea of Gmail, one of the tech firm’s most successful ventures.
Research suggests the working environment is also key to the creative mindset. Make sure employees have a quiet, comfortable space with low-level lighting where they can go for a change of scenery to innovate in peace. Ticket-sale company Eventbrite has a Zen Room in their San Francisco office, where employees can meditate, think or nap on the comfy couches. Why not give something like that a try?
Influence relies on knowing someone at an individual level. Giving people time and space to catch up with each other, or clients, in a more relaxed environment can help build relationships so when employees need to convince others to follow a certain path they can.
Confidence plays an enormous role in shaping thoughts and opinions. There are many things an employer can do to enhance this. When reviewing performance be specific as to what is right, take note of the employee’s best skills and talents and encourage them to share their knowledge with others.
Turning employees into storytellers is also an excellent way to harness the skills of persuasion.
Highlighting the importance of practicing presentation skills and public speaking, while providing regular feedback, will help people learn how to retain someone’s interest and build a connection with an audience.
To build a collaborative workplace, the need for it must be clearly communicated. A good manager will always play to people’s strengths and should be encouraged to define team member roles. If individuals have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, they will be able to work together more effectively. Laying out team goals at the start of a project will also help ensure they meet targets.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has been credited with a change in the software company’s culture. A notable intervention was putting together a hackathon that included thousands of employees from across different departments working together to experiment, learn and build. This event, as well as many other initiatives, means Microsoft is no longer a collection of siloed departments competing for resources and recognition.
Workforces need to be ready for the future and this means they are able to respond to rapid changes and fill skills gaps. To that end, fostering a learning culture is key.
In a changing world, agile companies with flexible structures are most likely to survive. Making your company less hierarchical and focusing more on the skills you need in a role instead of its seniority may help.
Swarm groups, which come together for a short-term project and contribute to a flurry of activity, are one way to achieve this.
The automotive company Daimler has focused on developing swarm teams in an attempt to compete with other tech giants at the height of innovation. Daimler CEO, Dieter Zetsche, envisages about 20% of the organisation working in swarm teams so employees are bound to their specialist subject areas instead of a distinct role or position.
Most of the time employees operate on autopilot. This programmed state stops people checking in on their emotions or properly reflecting on situations, making it hard to build on emotional intelligence.
Encourage teams to bookmark time in the week to talk face-to-face without phones or laptops. This will help individuals practice self-awareness, a key quality in emotional intelligence.
Managing emotions is also important. Creating an environment that encourages people to exercise at lunch can be a fruitful way to help people reset. After a busy period, encourage teams to regroup and talk through pressure points and feelings that emerged at certain times during the intensive period of work.
This will not only help them be aware of their emotions next time but will also build more open relationships between colleagues.