Why are we still talking about the importance of leaders developing employee soft skills?
Here’s why: the more that automation in all of its forms become part of our daily work lives, the more we need to bring to bear the one thing that a machine will never be: human.
And that humanity is most often talked about in the context of developing “soft skills”—those uniquely human traits that allow us to grease the wheels of human interaction. Here are seven reasons leaders need to focus on developing their employees’ soft skills.
Soft skills never go out of style. The term “soft skills” was coined in the early 1970’s as part of a US Army training manual, but the idea has been around forever: “people skills” are important. What you learn about the latest tech will be obsolete in months (or weeks!) but your ability to read someone’s emotions and respond appropriately will always have value.
We can always get better. When it comes to being more human, there’s always room for improvement. Think about it, do you know anyone who is perfect 100% of the time at listening, verbal communication, demonstrating empathy. . . really, any number of other soft skills?
Soft skills are crucial in today’s workplace. According to this Deloitte white paper, 60% of “crucial proficiencies” as identified by the World Economic Forum are non-technical.
STEM focus might negatively impact social skills. It’s anecdotal, but there is a feeling from hiring managers that the focus on churning out STEM-educated students may also diminish their soft skill abilities once they hit the workforce.
Technology in general has affected how younger employees interact. According to this Fast Company article, younger employees are deemed lacking in collaborative skills as well as general communication skills such as making phone calls and presentations. They’re much more comfortable texting or Snapchatting someone.
Your white collar job is not safe from bots. All sectors of work are being affected by automation and artificial intelligence. The best line of defense for your employees (and you too!) is to develop your social and emotional intelligence.
You will soon lead a human/bot hybrid team. Dana Theus, career coach and workplace futurist, asks us to consider a team composed of humans and bots—a team where leaders must manage robots and humans with equal skill. Although it’s still likely years away for most managers, making this mindset shift now can mean the difference between thriving as a leader and obsolescence.
Soft skills, people skills, emotional intelligence—whatever you phrase you use for the term “being good with people”—remain as important as ever for workplaces. Automation will not fully replace leaders, as long as they learn to work with technology, not against it.