Every job has essential hard skills and experience necessary for the work. Even though these skills are extremely important, there are specific “soft skills” that employers look for when hiring people for their organization.
Soft skills refer to personal attributes such as skills in communicating, managing time, working in a team, or creative abilities. As more businesses move to a matrix organization hierarchy to capitalize on the abilities of their existing employees, soft skills are more necessary than ever.
Soft Skills Are Essential
Soft skills can help you become successful no matter where you work or what you do. Employers value these types of skills because they demonstrate the internal thought processes of a person and how effective they will be in the organization.
Matrix organizations are those in which employees are separated into teams to specialize in one area under one manager, while being assigned projects under another manager. Employees can be assigned to multiple projects and managers based on their skills and abilities. This creates a need for employees to be flexible, creative, personable, and possess many other soft skills to be effective.
Emotional intelligence is not a new theory, but it is a relatively new desired soft skill in the workplace. It is generally defined as the awareness of your emotions and feelings and those of others while being able to use the awareness to guide decisions and interactions with others.
This is a very necessary ability in work environments which are high stress, have tight deadlines and people being moved from team to team for different projects. Some employees end up working on multiple projects with multiple managers.
It is desirable in this type of environment to employ people who are able to control their emotions, work together to complete projects and be effective teams.
Leadership and Persuasiveness
Leadership is not simply being the one in charge and leading a team. It is the ability to persuade others employers, including your peers. Employers need people that can work alongside other people, be able to explain to them their expert opinions, and persuade them to make decisions that align with their ideas.
This is an extremely valuable trait as team members are viewed as subject matter experts in their field for the projects they are going to be working on. Team members that are persuasive leaders move from project to project, using their skills to ensure their part of the project is finished on time. Persuasive peer leadership is an admirable trait that will ensure teams are successful.
Analytical and Quantitative Skills
Employers want people with the ability to think critically and analytically. Employees that are able to identify trends in large amounts of information are in high demand.
Quantifying information is assigning numerical values to pieces of information, and sorting that information for analysis. This is a highly desirable skill due to the amount of information that is being gathered on a daily basis.
Employers are beginning to collect data on employee performance, project completion or any other number of business activities. This data no good to anyone sitting in storage, so companies want to able to use it to improve their business.
Curiosity and Learning Desire
Employees that are curious and driven to learn more are more apt to become proficient in technology driven workplaces. Technology is continuing to advance at break-neck speeds, making it easy to be left behind. "Life-long learner" is a desired skill used in many job postings, referring to a person's innate curiosity and desire to learn more, with the ability to apply what is learned at work.
Contextualize or See the Big Picture
It is necessary to be able to conceptualize what organizations are doing, and how they are affected by certain circumstances or decisions, Employers are looking for people who can work towards the larger goals of a company, and make decisions that will have results focused on larger company goals.
Excellent Communication and Interpersonal Skills
The ability to communicate effectively cannot be overrated. To succeed in the workforce, employees need to know how to communicate as well as listen to work effectively with supervisors, co-workers, and clients.
Most jobs today require basic computer skills and technological knowledge. Technology is used for record-keeping, data collection, detailed notes, or presentations. Employers want to know a candidate’s level of computer and technological knowledge to establish if they can do the basics of any job.
A Positive Attitude
A positive attitude can do wonders in turning a department or company around. Having employees who possess a positive attitude can also be contagious; for employers, it’s important for them to have that energy in the workplace. It keeps people going when under stress, makes difficult work seem easier, and can make a work environment more enjoyable.
A Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic is the drive to be working and do well. Finding and hiring people that possess a strong work ethic is key to the success of any employer. A strong work ethic is hard to teach, and harder to maintain if it doesn't exist already.
Self-realization, self-reflection, and dedication to change on a person's part can create a stronger work ethic, but employers do not have time or the inclination to help a person develop this essential skill.
Problem-Solving Skills and Creativity
Problems will always arise. Employees who can find solutions to daily challenges are more valuable to an organization than those that find problems and no solutions. Some managers prefer to have a problem brought to their attention with options for solutions presented at the same time.
If you are in a position to make decisions, you should be capable of creating solutions or eliciting solutions from your team. You will not find many employers that want someone who constantly identifies problems, but cannot solve them.
In the past employees would often seek jobs that aligned with their desire to either work independently or work in a team environment. In today’s workforce, much of the work is done in teams; there is a need for employees to work independently (sometimes as part of a team), but you will more than likely be part of a team working towards an objective.
Perform Under Pressure
The competitive nature of the marketplace creates tight deadlines and pressure to produce quickly. If a company does not release a product or service on time, they will lose the opportunity to do so to its competitors. To perform under pressure, you need to have all of the previously discussed attributes.
You'll need to rely on teammates, solve problems, understand and work with emotions, have a positive attitude and technical skills to complete the work. A strong work ethic will see you through tough times, while creativity will help you find the solutions to problems. Work on developing all of these skills, and you will be more desirable to employers and effective at work.