The pandemic has disrupted many elements of daily life. In no area is this more evident than in the way we interact with one another. Face-to-face gatherings have been substituted with virtual visits, text messaging or a good old phone call.
Working remotely, we’ve lost the ability to have those impromptu meetings and serendipitous conversations that end up being incredibly productive. Instead, workplace interaction now occurs mostly via email and video conferencing.
As opportunities to connect with each other are limited, our soft skills have become more important than ever.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personality traits and interpersonal skills that positively affect how we work and interact with others. They help us to be more resilient, enabling us to adapt and even thrive in a work environment that has seen a lot of change in the last year.
Hard skills, on the other hand, are technical skills or other job-specific expertise acquired through education, training or hands-on experience. Examples of hard skills are project management, analytics and customer relationship management.
Stanford Research Institute International found that 75% of the long-term success in a job is based on a mastery of soft skills and only 25% of that job success comes from technical skills.
In 2019, LinkedIn partnered with the Labour Market Information Council in Ottawa to analyze 400,000 job postings across 10 Canadian cities. It determined that leadership and communication were the soft skills in highest demand by employers.
In a much altered post-pandemic workplace, the soft skills identified as the most important are adaptability, problem solving, time management, collaboration and, you guessed it, communication.
Can soft skills be learned?
While each of us is born with certain soft skills, it is possible to develop the ones we lack. Coaching, mentoring, online courses (such as LinkedIn Learning) and interactive workshops are all helpful tools to grow the skills vital to career success.
More and more companies are creating training programs to help employees sharpen their soft skillset. Walmart acquired 17,000 virtual reality headsets to use in their training centres. Simulation-based learning helps their employees expand their customer service skills, which involve problem-solving, communication and empathy.
Post-pandemic, many organizations will be espousing a hybrid model. At any given time there will be teams working remotely as well as in the office. In this new environment, having an arsenal of soft skills will help us maintain relationships and build new ones, collaborate and, ideally, exceed productivity targets.