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The Hard Truth about Soft Skills

By Ashley Denuzzo

Robots can’t do everything.

Sure, today’s technology can now land airplanes, diagnose illness, predict stocks, help you lose weight, find you love– okay, it’s pretty incredible.

But while computers and apps can assist in literally (and we mean literally) any aspect of your life, a trend is now emerging in today’s workplace that technology can’t seem to replicate.

Quite literally: the human element.

Creativity, emotional intelligence, communication skills, interpersonal abilities and relational competences – are all things that robots have not yet mastered.

And while most industries now require their workers to maintain technical fluencies across roles, those same industries also want their employees to be adaptable, critical thinkers who both lead and communicate well.

As technology usage rises, so does the demand for soft skills.

The trend is spreading quickly across all industries and professions.

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report (which surveyed more than 4,000 professionals), the number one priority for talent development in 2018 is soft skills. In fact, 89% of surveyed executives said that “it is difficult to find people with soft skills,” with 64% citing communication as the most desired skill.

Klaus Schawb, founder of the World Economic Forum, famously wrote, “I am convinced of one thing – that in the future, talent more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.” This means that as robots and automation continue to take on manual labour, society will need to foster what differentiates humans from machines.

And some of society’s top companies and organization are paying attention.

In 2013, Google analyzed the data behind the hiring, firing and promotion patterns of their own employees. Who are Google’s top employees? What skills have they mastered? These questions drove their research and the results shocked everyone.

Among the eight most important on-the-job qualities and skills, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) expertise came in dead last.

Dead last.

The top seven characteristics were:  being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others; having empathy towards others; being a critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

If this data tells us anything, it’s that soft skills are not only critical but they are also a catalyst in driving the future.

In fact, a recent survey of 260 employers by the non-profit National Association of Colleges and Employers also ranked communication skills in the top three most sought-after qualities by recruiters.

Students are also adapting to the trends. According to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, communication studies are posting a rapid growth in relation to other undergraduate degrees.

And if you really think about it, these trends should come as no surprise.

Yes, the world’s smartest machines are amazing at narrowly defined and predictable tasks. But when it comes down to emotional intelligence and relational tasks, humans are still the leading authority.

Human relationships remain central to success. You cannot replicate emotion, empathy, creativity, vulnerability and leadership; nor can it be improvised or coded.

Which is why despite living in a world where robots can serve your breakfast, you still need someone to ask you how you’re doing.

For that same reason, companies are investing in humans – not just robots.

 

One Response to “The Hard Truth about Soft Skills”

  1. Ken Everett

    Well said!

    Reply

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