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The Importance of Developing Soft Skills in the Workplace

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

I have previously blogged about the importance of developing soft skills. In today's blog I update the discussion by addressing ways to improve your soft skills. First, it's important to understand the importance of developing these skills in the workplace.

Developing Soft Skills in the Workplace

I recently read an interesting article on Forbes Advisor online that addresses the importance of soft skills in the workplace. According to the article, “Soft skills—also known as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills”—are a set of personal attributes and abilities that allow individuals to effectively interact with others in a professional setting. At their core, these include the ability to collaborate effectively, manage time and communicate with clarity, among others.”

I have championed soft skills in my teaching of ethics because it encompasses several of those identified in the article including communication, leadership, teamwork, creativity, adaptability, problem-solving, work ethic, and critical thinking.

It is more important than ever before for young people to learn how to apply soft skills in interpersonal communication and behaviors. One reason is they grow up these days interacting with others one line. There is little or no face-to-face contact which makes it difficult to develop skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership.

A survey of the desired soft skills by employers was conducted by Guy Berger, the Director of Economic Research at LinkedIn. The results are not that different than the soft skills referred to above. Taken together, these skills can create emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively. This ability to express and control emotions is essential, but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.


Soft skills

Years ago, a lack of soft skills wasn’t as big of a deal since jobs were mostly routine and reliant on specific skills to accomplish. But today, in our knowledge, global economy, soft skills, like collaboration, team-building and introspection, have become vital—and executives are noticing that a lack of them limits the company’s productivity. In fact, the LinkedIn survey shows that 58% percent of hiring managers believe the lack of soft skills among candidates is “limiting their company’s productivity.”

Employers providing soft skills training report positive impacts on their workforce, including higher productivity and improved results. As today’s skill shift accelerates, it is essential that organizations enhance and expand development initiatives for business longevity.

How to Improve Your Soft Skills

According to an article posted on Indeed, the following are ways to enhance soft skills in the workplace.

  1. Be open to feedback.
  2. Communicate often.
  3. Emphasize teamwork.
  4. Build positive relationships.
  5. Get outside your comfort zone.
  6. Get ready to learn.
  7. Adapt to workplace changes.
  8. Observe others.
  9. Work through conflict.
  10. Take on a leadership role.

It is important to note that these skills are developed proactively. Workplace skills are best learned through practice, reflection, repetition, and analysis of benefits.

I was surprised to read another article on Forbes that actually promoted the importance of soft skills in the AI environment. I had expected those skills to become obsolete, but I am wrong. Technical skills and data literacy are important in this age of AI, big data, and automation. According to the article that doesn't mean we should ignore the human side of work – skills in areas that robots can't do so well. Writing for Forbes, Bernard Marr states these "softer skills will become even more critical for success as the nature of work evolves, and as machines take on more of the easily automated aspects of work. In other words, the work of humans is going to become altogether more, well, human."

Employers need to find a way to incorporate soft skill training in the workplace, especially in the emerging AI environment including ChatGPT. The best way to do so is to create realistic case studies keyed to specific workplace challenges and divide employees into functional groups, with one member of each group participating on the team. HR should facilitate the training to insure it doesn't run afoul of workplace standards. At the conclusion of the training, there should be a debriefing session whereby each group learns from the other specific skills that make for a productive workplace with communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills at the forefront.

Posted by Steven Mintz, Ph.D., aka Ethics Sage, on May 14, 2024. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: