Pretend that you’re an employer who needs to choose between two job candidates. To do the job adequately, the prospective employee will need to have specific technical skills and 2 years of experience. Employee #1 has those technical skills and 2 years of experience. Employee #2 has the needed technical skills and more, and 5 years of experience. Which one would you hire? While Employee #2 may seem like the obvious choice, that’s not the way people actually make hiring decisions.
As long as the candidates have adequate hard skills/experience necessary to do the job, employers make their decisions based on candidates’ soft skills—the ability to get along with other people, having a good attitude, being an effective communicator, displaying a professional demeanor, evidencing creativity, working well as part of a team, showing adaptability, etc. Simply put, would you rather work with someone who has lots of technical acumen but is unpleasant to have around, or with a delightful person with the needed technical skills? In the competitive, global, 21st century workplace, interpersonal and relationship-building skills are more important than ever. So while hard skills get you in the door, your soft skills are what get you the job.
There are myriad lists of the most important soft skills. Here are three employee traits/abilities that rose to the top in a recent Deloitte study:
Can an employee struggle with solving a problem until it’s solved without throwing in the towel? Since on-the-job challenges are inevitable, companies and organizations need employees who can maintain focus on the problem and persist until it’s solved.
Can an employee regulate their responses to frustrating, maddening, or anxiety-inducing situations? The workplace is rife with stressors. It’s critically important that an employee can appropriately react to triggering people and situations encountered on the job.
Does the employee have a connection to the overarching mission of the company/organization and their role in achieving it? Feeling attached to the place they work leads to greater focus and effort among employees.