Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: A Changing Landscape

Technical skills, frequently called “hard skills,” remain a critical element exceptional organizations need to achieve outstanding performance results. The ability to learn the job, retain that knowledge, and perform tasks and responsibilities that meet or exceed expectations are essential for organizations to compete and succeed. Traditionally, organizations required that resumes and applications focused on special skills and experiences that potential candidates have acquired through education, on the job training, and experience. The goal of most resumes has been to show on paper the hard skills people can bring to the organization.

Recent studies and industry trends indicate there has been a dramatic shift in thinking. Today, organizations are placing greater importance on soft skills in the workplace and people competence. More organizations are reprioritizing and focusing more training and resources on soft skills. Many senior leaders tell us that today effective soft skills take priority over hard skills. In addition, customers are quick to switch to your competitors when they see your employees demonstrate even small amounts of poor soft skills (criticism, incivility or disrespectful behavior between coworkers).

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What Are Soft Skills?

By definition, soft skills are an individual’s ability to sense, regulate, and respond in a constructive way to other people’s ideas as well as how to explore resolutions to issues, challenges, problems or conflicts with others. Soft skills are about exercising influence and building trust with others.

Common soft skills examples and topic areas include the following list. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are common areas many organization focus on in their effort to develop leadership soft skills.

  • Communication Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Conflict Resolution/Management
  • Delegation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Influencing others
  • Leadership Styles
  • Teamwork
  • Team Meeting Effectiveness
  • Time Management
  • Recognition
  • Performance discussions
  • Feedback

The Business Case for Soft Skills in the Workplace

Harvard Business Review published the results of a study conducted by Porath and Pearson. This study indicated that poor leadership soft skills like rudeness, incivility, disrespectful interactions and hostility had astonishing results on the bottom line and on the organization’s culture. A poll of 800 managers in 17 industries plus thousands of interviews with workers over a 14-year period indicated that people will respond to ineffective soft skills in a negative way.

  • Employees are 30% less creative when they feel disrespected
  • 48% deliberately decrease their efforts
  • Good people leave
  • 38% lower the quality of their work

Experiencing poor soft skills from salespeople lead customers to form negative impressions about the company, the brand and the people in the organization. This is just a sampling of how devastating it can be to a business with weak soft skills and why soft skills deserve more attention.

Company leadership and HR professionals believe that improved soft skills lead to better behavior and business climate, which leads to better results. A strong soft skills culture in any organization is a differentiator which creates a positive, steady and predictable work experience and greater efficiencies for leaders and team members alike.

Organizations have doubled down on soft skills development and training. This effort has a significant impact on retention and turnover. Studies are clearly showing that soft skill focused organizations have:

  • Higher retention
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Improved business results and profitability

There is no doubt soft skills have become just as important as technical knowledge in the workplace. For leaders, it is especially critical to master soft skills in order to develop a team, build trust, establish credibility and create an environment where people find work more meaningful and motivating.

A leader or team member with exceptional soft skills has good interpersonal skills, works well with others, and will produce and achieve goals and targets. They communicate with excellence, demonstrate a commitment to others and the organization, and listen when others express themselves. Someone with soft skills thinks with creativity, offers solutions to solve problems, is engaged in facilitating success, and has a great work ethic. In short, soft skills have an elevated importance because they help a workplace in multiple ways.

Too often in the workplace, it is easy to ignore a problem, be passive aggressive, or snap when the problem becomes too much. Team members and leaders with effective soft skills, great emotional intelligence, and a people-first mindset know how to talk through difficult issues and have courageous conversations with anyone in the organization. Their approach to problems and issues is to work toward defining scenarios and options that solve the problem and are not focused on the persons and personalities involved with the issue.

If you are an organization looking to address this need, CMOE offers a number of different soft skill solutions in various formats, giving our customers the flexibility to select, tailor, or build the best option that works for them.

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Delivery Options

In order to meet the specific needs of each client we partner with and make the most of the learning and development investment, CMOE offers programs in the following formats and lengths:

Instructor-led training (delivered onsite by a CMOE subject matter expert/facilitator)

Digital learning program (self-paced or live)

Blended and layered solution (combining instructor-led training and digital learning)

Train the trainer services (certifying internal trainers in CMOE’s world-class programs)

Curriculum integration (deliver the topic in conjunction with another topic or event or build it into a development curriculum)

4-16 hours (8 hours preferred) for instructor-led variable for digital learning

Contact a CMOE Client Services Specialist to discuss a targeted solution that is right for your organization.