The Status: The Hard Part About Soft Skills

Collaboration is critical to creative work, and your team’s ability to effectively hinges on their ability to think critically and work together to solve ambiguous problems.

Soft skills are vital for creative teams. But they’re surprisingly difficult to manage, measure, and develop.

Many in the talent industry recognize the challenge of soft skills. Not only are these skills difficult to screen for, they’re also hard to teach, because they’re subjective — they’re open to interpretation and heavily depend on the context of a company’s industry, structure, and culture.

Younger generations continue to enter the workforce with plenty of technical skill, yet they are relying on you — their employer — to help them develop the soft skills needed to work successfully with the rest of your team. Even experienced talent may need to adjust to your culture and team dynamics by developing new skills.

In this day in age, attracting and retaining top-tier talent requires an investment. To stay competitive, consider how you’re developing soft skills on your team.

Why you can’t ignore soft skills

It’s not only creative teams that need strong collaboration skills. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, “Instead of a steady progression along a job-based pathway, leading organizations are shifting toward a model that empowers individuals to acquire valuable experiences, explore new roles, and continually reinvent themselves.”

McKinsey’s research also identifies the need for dynamic teams in their model of an agile organization. These teams are empowered to make autonomous decisions about their work. Rather than take direction from leadership, individuals are encouraged to act as entrepreneurs within the business, think critically, and collaborate across disciplines.

It’s clear that the very nature of work has changed. As organizations shed their static, hierarchical structures to embrace a more dynamic, fluid approach, the need to develop their talent is paramount.

Even Elon Musk — a huge proponent of automation — has realized the importance of soft skills, admitting that “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

Now, the challenge ahead for us is figuring out how to manage and develop these underrated humans’ skills.

How do we identify what skills are most important in the context of our business and culture? How can we strategically screen for those traits during the hiring process? And how do we continue to evaluate and develop both technical skills and soft skills, and leverage them as a competitive advantage?

To find the best answers to these ambiguous problems, we will likely have to leverage some soft skills of our own.

Martijn van Tilburg
October 23rd, 2018
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