Why Soft Skills Are A Must-Have In The Modern Workplace
When we consider what it takes to get ahead in any industry, what first comes to mind is usually “expertise.” And while technical know-how is important, what often gets left out of the equation are the human qualities that help us to succeed at work (and in life!)
In business speak, those qualities are often referred to as durable, or “soft skills.” Examples include the ability to establish a vision, communicate effectively, and relate to people who may think very differently from yourself.
But how important are transferable skills, really?
Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center tells us that only 15% of job success actually comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills). That means a whopping 85% of your impact on the job comes from having well‐developed people skills.
Durable ("Soft") Skills vs Hard Skills
Despite the fact that this “secret to success” has been known for decades, it’s rarely put into practice.
For many of us, the prioritization of hard skills begins so early in life that we rarely stop to question it. Our education system itself reinforces the idea that acquiring knowledge is the key to a bright future. It's not who you are, but what you KNOW that counts.
We learn how to diagram a sentence in school, but not healthy strategies for emotional self regulation. We can “solve for x” in an equation, but may have no idea how to give and receive constructive feedback.
Unsuprisingly, there’s a glaring disconnect for many people between what we believe leads to professional success, and the qualities that are truly required in order to achieve it.
We see this play out all the time in today’s workplace.
Here’s an example that may resonate:
Someone is promoted into a management position because they are a superstar individual contributor. They’re a high performer who’s proven their technical skills, so it makes sense to elevate them to the next level.
What happens next is often surprising (though it shouldn’t be.)
The former star flounders in their new role. They may find themselves unable to effectively manage and motivate a team - often in the very area in which they possess ample “expertise.”
This is the point where a leadership coach may be brought in to support the flailing manager in making the transition. In many cases, that involves cultivating their “people-ing” skills.
Why? Because subject matter expertise only takes a person so far. Soft skills are what’s desperately needed in order for this manager to succeed in their new role.
The good news is that interpersonal skills can be taught and cultivated. The bad news is that most companies are not doing it proactively enough. And that’s a real problem, because the impact of poor management can be very costly in the long run.
The Price of Neglecting Soft Skills
Ineffective leaders impact productivity in a variety of ways, including the loss of other key team members.
According to Built In, losing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. For hourly workers, it costs an average of $1,500 per employee. For technical positions, that cost jumps to 100-150 percent of their annual salary. At the high end, C-suite turnover can cost 213 percent.
Turnover has a big impact on the bottom line.
Recent statistics show that 50 million people left their jobs in 2022. According to Shane Green with the Forbes Coaches Council, the primary reason for “The Great Resignation” is this:
“People have become much less tolerant of bad managers and a negative culture. Rather than accepting a situation that negatively impacts a person’s well-being, health and psyche, employees are looking elsewhere and being more conscious of a work environment and job that will fit them best.” (Stop Blaming Everything Else For Your People Leaving You: Look At Your Managers First, Forbes, May 4, 2022)
You’d think we’d have this figured out by now at the systemic level, but we don’t. Far from it!
Employers continue to invest 75% of their professional development resources into cultivating hard skills. The underinvestment in soft skills is costing industry - big time.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to develop your soft skills.
Soft Skills in the Workplace
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlights the importance of 5 transferable skills that are needed across every industry. These are the qualities that can help you achieve greater success in your current job, pivot in the event of a layoff, or shift onto an entirely new career path.
So what are soft transferable skills?
According to HBR, examples of transferable skills include:
- Effective communication
- Influencing without authority
- Problem solving
While these may come intuitively for some people, the reality is that most of us need to be taught how to embody and apply them effectively. It’s one thing to understand the value of clear communication, and quite another to have internalized the behaviors and habits of mind required to do it under pressure.
These are the skills that students learn in an evidence-based coach training program.
Coach training is not just for those who aspire to launch a coaching business. Many students here at Lumia enroll in our program in order to advance along their existing career path. They’re here, in other words, to develop and refine their soft skills.
(And get this: employers who understand the value of these skills are often willing to help pay for your coach training tuition!)
Let’s take a look at how the tools of coaching map to the five skills that the Harvard Business Review lists above.
Communication skills are at the heart of the coaching relationship. This includes learning how to:
- Create psychological safety and trust
- Ask the right questions
- Listen with the intent to understand
- Tap into underlying values and motivations
The tools of coaching show you how to take a 360 degree view of people and situations, as well as how to recognize your own biases and blind spots. Our coach training gives you:
- An introduction to intersectionality and cultural competency
- How to identify and address internal biases
- An appreciation for the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and points of view within a team
Influencing without authority
A coaching culture can emerge from anywhere within an organization. Consider these examples of how a coaching mindset can enhance performance at every stage of your career.
Individual Contributors and New Managers
- Greater self-awareness and emotional self-regulation
- Modeling effective communication
- Techniques for empowering others versus micromanaging, or solving problems for them
- Developing vision, goals and long term strategy instead of putting out fires
- Assessing the strengths of individual team members in order to foster autonomy and ownership
- Creating psychological safety
- Asking the right questions and capitalizing on talent
- Directing the attention of others as well as harnessing your own
- Holding a concurrent view of the self, others, and the wider world
- Mastering the use of empathy in relationship management
Technical experts “have all the answers.” If you’ve ever worked for a micromanaging boss, you know how demoralizing it can be to be told how to do everything.
Leaders, on the other hand, empower. Coach training gives you the tools and techniques to support others in identifying their own solutions, which results in greater employee engagement, buy-in, and organizational productivity.
The world of work is rapidly changing, and astute leaders are paying close attention.
As a leader, it’s critical to be familiar with empirically proven principles that are essential for psychological wellbeing. When these principles are not present in the workplace, the impact is not neutral – it’s actively harmful. (Grenville-Cleave, Et al. 2021)
Heavy hitting human resource firms such as Gartner, academics like the Harvard Business Review, and publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are all calling for coaching skills to supplement (or replace!) hierarchical management practices as we know them today.
According to Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner, management of the future will require less technical experts, and more social-emotional expertise. In today’s competitive job market, the tools of coaching can give you a competitive advantage.
Ready to Level Up Your Skills?
Business leaders, advisors, HR professionals, therapists, personal trainers, techies, nurses, teachers, social workers -- all of these people have found our life coaching certification program useful in elevating their existing skills, and for assuming leadership positions within their organizations.
Whatever your future career plans may hold, we invite you to explore the Lumia Life Coach Training.
Grounded in science, our International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, business instruction, and fellow students dedicated to becoming a collective force for good.