As any savvy company leader knows, choosing the right members to form an effective team involves more than their raw ability to perform tasks. While technical, or “hard” skills may look great on a resume, it is actually the functional or “soft” skills that separate talented candidates from valuable team members with very few exceptions.
In fact, the digital skills gap in the American workforce that has seen domestic productivity rates fall to their lowest levels in nearly half a century is in large part the result of a shortage of the soft skill training that keeps companies running smoothly day-to-day, and balancing hard and soft skill training is the best way to achieve a well-rounded, resilient and effective workforce.
Hard skills are those which an employee can practice in any environment uniformly regardless of context. These are most often known as “book smarts” skills, and examples of hard skills in the modern workplace include research skills, document processing and platform flexibility, or the ability to use a number of solutions to address problems that arise.
Along with more occupationally-specific skills such as programming knowledge or legal expertise, hard skills form the base of many professions and are highly sought by employers. While these technical skills are important, it is equally important to recognize that these skills can be developed or bolstered at any time through a defined process, and so many companies take a focus on these skills in their employees.
While soft skills are not as traditionally prized as technical abilities in the educational system or corporate world, they are arguably more important in the context of the modern workplace. Soft skills include competencies in areas such as attention management, communication, project collaboration and digital etiquette, and although they may seem secondary, these real-life skills go a long way in working as part of a team in the office of today and should be cultivated by firms looking to optimize their workforce.
Another “soft skill” that is rapidly solidifying its place as an essential competency is security and privacy awareness. As organizations implement more advanced security protocols, it is important that their employees become familiar with them in order for these measures to work properly. Despite being traditionally underappreciated, soft skills are becoming exponentially more important as companies begin to operate in new and innovative ways that emphasize the human element, and therefore it is crucial for company leaders to incorporate extensive soft skill training into their employee development efforts.
Many companies understandably place a premium on developing hard skills such as coding or accounting, but in the vast majority of professions, an employee is more than a set of abilities, but part of a company dynamic. The most effective company leaders recognize this, and work to develop their workforce as people as well as employees. Regardless of any foreseeable advances in any technical arena, the reality is that organizations are collections of people who must work together to achieve a common goal, and this serves to highlight the continued importance of soft skill training.
Jeff Fernandez is co-founder and CEO of Grovo, helping to educate the digital workforce.
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