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Why Don't Soft Skills Get More Respect?

The following post is courtesy of board member, and Skeptical Guy, John Hollon. In this post, John discusses the importance of soft skills for success in the workplace.

It's surprising that soft skills get so little respect in today's workplace.

Look at any job description posted for just about any job. What you'll find is a long list of very specific technical skills that are required, as well as specific job experience the hiring manager wants. Rarely, if ever, will you find anything directly addressing any soft skills that the job candidate needs to possess.

This is baffling, because ongoing evidence continues to confirm that soft skills are really the key to great employees.

Back in August 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that companies all over the U.S. were finding it increasingly difficult to find applicants who could communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers. These traits, often called soft skills, “can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.”

Nearly three years later, the hunt for workers with strong soft skills has grown even more urgent.

Just last month, a CareerBuilder hiring survey found that the top employment and hiring trend this year was that "candidates' soft skills are increasingly important when applying to jobs."

And just how important are those soft skills? The survey said that a whopping 92 percent of employers "say soft skills, including interpersonal skills, communication abilities, and critical thinking, (are) important in determining whether they hire candidates.”

It's hard to get much more important than that.

In addition, 80 percent of employers in the CareerBuilder survey said "that soft skills would be equally or more important than hard skills when hiring candidates, since specific technical skills are necessary for some jobs."

This points out something that many recruiters and hiring managers seem to forget: While an employee's technical skills may get their foot in the door, it's their people skills -- aka, soft skills -- that will open most of the doors to come. It's a person's work ethic, attitude, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and other soft skills that are critical for career success.

Whether you hire high-level executives, minimum wage workers, or anybody in between, their social skills and ability to communicate well with those they work with -- yes, their "soft" skills -- are critical to their success.

Chief Executive magazine made this very same point when they noted that, “According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' _CEO Survey,' 77 percent of respondents believe that the biggest threat to their businesses stems from underdeveloped soft skills. After all, not striking a balance between soft and hard skills can limit businesses from maintaining a competitive advantage.”

During my management career, I've seen the importance of soft skills downplayed at just about every level -- from recruiter to hiring manager to line manager to top-level executive. And, I can't tell you how many times I've seen high-level managers pooh-pooh the need for soft skills despite all the research to the contrary.

This new CareerBuilder survey is just the latest to make the case that soft skills are incredibly important, despite the postings you see on job boards and company career pages that make no mention of them at all.

If there's one thing Millennials have made clear, it's that the ability to connect with people personally will never go out of style. If you aren't focusing on soft skills in your recruiting and hiring, you better get going because you'll need them more and more as Millennials and Gen Z become a larger and ever more important part of America's workforce.

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