Hard skills are easy to quantify in the workplace and at home: either you know how to program software, or you don't. Either you understand how to design a stellar spreadsheet, or you don't.
With the rise of automation in the 21st century and the 4th Industrial Revolution, however, many jobs that require simple hard skills like data processing or data collection are going to disappear or evolve.
Author: Janine van der Merwe, Reward specialist at Remuneration Consultants, Tax Consulting SA
That's why it's essential to harness the power of soft skills like leadership, empathy, and creativity.
Here are 10 soft skills you will need to survive.
Interpersonal skills - empathy
When it comes to day-to-day or workplace situations, it's critical to be able to empathize with others to break down boundaries between team members, prevent conflict, and create a more positive work environment where people can flourish.
While sympathy involves feeling bad for another person and extending pity, empathy goes deeper.
It requires putting yourself "in another's shoes" and feeling their pain, frustration, excitement, or joy. It's a more profound response, connected to impulses in your cerebral cortex, that allows you to identify with another person's situation.
Sense of humor
In a fascinating Ted Talk, "The Magical Power of Storytelling," David JR Phillips discusses how telling humorous stories at work can help trigger the production of endorphins.
This effect occurs not just in yourself, but also in whoever's listening. People whose brains get flooded with endorphins are more relaxed and creative.
Having a sense of humor and being able to engage with other team members in a light and easy way is an essential soft skill. It not only helps ease the mood and get endorphins flowing for greater creativity, but it also keeps things in perspective in work and your day-to-day world.
Integrity and honesty
Integrity will never go out of style. In its purest form, it's about maintaining a set of personal values at all points during your personal and professional life.
Though compromising in some matters is essential to collaborative work, there's never a reason to compromise on values like honesty and respect.
When it comes to fostering integrity in your interactions, it's helpful to keep those values top-of-mind so that you don't lapse in moments of hardship.
"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." Jim Rohn.
Jim Rohn's wise words break down the critical aspects of leadership, highlighting the importance of balancing values to guide a team or an organization to success.
Even outside of managerial roles, it helps to think like a leader; value other people's contributions and exude confidence but be willing to learn from others.
Though everyone has a conflicting view on globalization, most can agree that the trend is here to stay. Most Millennials already consider themselves "global citizens".
A bilingual employee is an asset to the team. Understanding the structure of other languages can also help strengthen communication skills in your native language, and feeds into other soft skills like flexibility, collaboration, and empathy.
Emerging language technology has made it incredibly easy to learn a new language.
Language fluency is not enough.
The ability to communicate effectively is another necessary soft skill.
Communication, as a concept, is way more complicated than you might think.
A Principles of Management article breaks down 13 distinct types of communication, including nonverbal, written, storytelling, and touch.
If you were to ask the Millennial generation about the power of collaboration, they would overwhelmingly agree that it is an essential soft skill in the workplace and beyond.
As automation begins to take over more solitary, rote tasks like data entry and data processing, you're going to have to embrace the ability to work in teams on higher-level functions that require more collaborative work.
Creativity and problem solving
Problem solving, and creativity must be discussed as one cohesive soft skill because most issues do necessitate creative solutions that haven't been thought of before.
Think of the ever-evolving world of content marketing, for example.
Year by year, innovative companies make new strides and set the standard for development.
If you want to work on creativity, try the following:
- Brainstorming sessions allow you to develop concepts in a judgment-free zone.
- Challenge your creative, right-brain activation through drawing or other artistic practices.
When it comes to maintaining your position in an increasingly competitive workplace, time management is critical.
With automation, faster technology, and greater connectivity in the world, there's indeed no place to hide from poor time-management skills.
That is where harnessing the power of technology is going to be an incredible asset.
Adaptability and flexibility
As we've discussed, automation and the role of Artificial Intelligence will likely continue to increase at a rapid rate.
Though this promises exciting innovations and efficiencies in a variety of fields, it's going to create rapid changes.
That is where the ability to adapt becomes an incredibly valuable soft skill asset.
You can have all the education, training, and potential in the world, but if you cannot rapidly adapt to the changes that are set to occur in the workplace, you will have a difficult time transitioning in the future.
The most fascinating and elusive aspect of soft skills is that they work together in perfect harmony.
For example, it's difficult to engage in effective collaboration and communication without empathy. Without integrity and established trust, it's hard to be a good leader. And without the ability to adapt to changes in the workforce, you'll never develop your skills efficiently.