Soft skills are important in the workplace now more than ever. As we all navigate our work amidst a pandemic and some organizations transition to a hybrid or fully remote work environment, it's the skills that can't necessarily be taught—like leadership and empathy—that are holding teams together. They allow us to solve critical problems, build better customer relationships, and collaborate more effectively.
The 2019 Global Talent Trends Report from LinkedIn predicted that more emphasis on soft skills will be one of four major trends that will shape the future of recruiting and HR. Soft skills foster a more harmonious work environment where employees are consistently motivated, engaged, and happy. If you haven't already, it's vital to start looking for soft skills in your future candidates and provide soft skills training to your existing workforce. Here are six major soft skills that drive employee success in an organization:
As an HR manager, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of teamwork on employee productivity and efficiency, especially with remote work. Working in a team makes employees more accountable and helps them achieve organizational goals faster. Part of this comes down to the diversity in your organization as well. When employees from different backgrounds exchange their ideas, feedback, and perspectives, better decisions can be made and problems can be solved in no time.
While interviewing candidates, be sure to ask about their experience with previous teams and how they feel about working in a team overall. To improve teamwork among your existing employees, team-building activities can help. Peer recognition, 360-degree feedback, clear team goals, and frequent communication can also break down silos and help your teams thrive.
If you think that positivity does not directly impact productivity, then consider this: We all have experience with that one employee or manager who consistently complains about what the organization is not doing well instead of focusing on what it is doing well. While it's important to point out how improvements can be made, focusing on only the bad without acknowledging the good is a quick way to damage morale in your organization. Lower morale means lower motivation and lower productivity. Conversely, employees with a positive attitude usually try to make work fun, see the good in their peers and organization, support their team, and promote the business more enthusiastically.
Analyze how your candidates perceive their current or previous organization, and try to assess how they handle failure. You can encourage more positivity in the workplace by appreciating hard work, encouraging feedback, building social relationships, and catering to your employees' basic needs. Transparency also helps, so talk about both the successes and failures of your organization. This will show that you aren't afraid to acknowledge where the organization has made mistakes and that you'd like to make improvements.
The more empathy your employees have for one another, the better their collaboration, satisfaction, and productivity will be. Empathy is one of the major drivers of teamwork. Empathetic employees demonstrate compassion and respect for their coworkers, listen to the problems of others without judging them, and understand emotions and feelings more complexly. Because of this understanding, they are well aware of how their actions may impact others.
Empathy may not be something that you can test for or teach with courses, but emotional intelligence is. Try asking a candidate how they would react to a sensitive situation like a conflict with a coworker, a poor performance review, or unfair treatment from a manager. Consider organizing an emotional intelligence course that focuses on active listening, body language, and implicit bias.
Recognizing leadership potential is important for all employees, but especially for candidates that you're screening for senior positions. Good leaders bring out the best in each of their team members and steer them efficiently towards a common goal. They overcome challenges together, and credit is shared amongst the team. Anyone in a leadership role will have to be able to discern the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members and offer career development opportunities accordingly.
Scenario-based questions can be really helpful in assessing a candidate's leadership quality. For instance, you can ask them about how they would manage a difficult employee on the team. Perhaps you could also ask them how they would handle criticism from one of their team members. When it comes to leadership, your existing employees draw inspiration from their leaders, so it's important that they set a good example. Furthermore, when your employees show signs that they might be good leaders, give them opportunities to explore that within the company. Part of effective leadership is staying connected with the organization and its goals. If managers are always hired from outside the company instead of from within, it may create rifts between the different hierarchies of your organization.
Today's business environment seems to be changing every day, and adaptability helps your employees to embrace these changes, learn new skills, respond to new requirements, and sustain your organization's success. Adaptable employees are dependable and approach challenges with willingness and positivity instead of dread.
During an interview, you can ask a candidate about their experience working on a project that was slightly outside of their realm of expertise. This will help you assess how open-minded they are and how they handle situations that are unfamiliar. To improve adaptability among your existing employees, encourage them to take calculated risks. Consider failure as a stepping stone and help them understand why something failed and how they can prevent it in the future.
At a time when the world of work is transforming, it's necessary to equip your employees with the soft skills they'll need to stay resilient and successful long into the future. Teamwork, adaptability, communication, leadership—these traits complement any hard skills a person has, and they are often not the easiest to train for. That's why looking for them in your candidates to start with or devising management strategies that nurture these traits are both great ideas. In the long run, the return on investment for these skills is extraordinary because they will impact everything from how your employees tackle problems to how well they are able to move up in your organization.