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Soft skills employers want in the new work world

Jul 02, 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world - and the world of work – indefinitely. The future of business as usual is an uncertainty that carries the only certainty of unavoidable change. As industries around the globe attempt to recover from the massive and reverberating disruptions wrought by the virus, job seekers must also evolve with the times or else be left behind in today's new world of work. 

Because the cold, hard fact about the coronavirus’ new work world is that it has increased the demand for soft-skills. 

Even before the pandemic, the world of work was already seeing a shift in skills demands as it the digital transformation began disrupting industries and increasing skills gaps. Now, however, the need to re-skill has new drivers separate from emerging technologies, and job seekers should use the interruption in their careers to develop or hone their soft skills to help them capitalize on work opportunities in the unpredictable post-coronavirus job market.  

As the world enters the into the recovery stage of the pandemic, employers have identified 7 important soft skills that are critical to moving their businesses forward.

However, before delving into those 7 soft skills, it's beneficial to understand just what soft skills are and why exactly they're so important in order to find work.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the important, intangible traits that aren't always identifiable on an application, and more often than not, these soft skills are skills that employers expect candidates to have when looking for work. Soft skills include, but are not limited to, skills like communication skills, problem solving skills, leadership skills, verbal communication skills, emotional intelligence and more.

What's the difference between soft skills and hard skills?

Soft skills are personality traits and inherit behaviors. Unlike hard skills, or technical skills as they are also often called, soft skills are not knowledge-based. They're behaviors that an individual displays within different situations at work or at home.

Soft skills are skills that aren't listed on a resume, but rather are displayed in real life. A recruiter or hiring team will work to uncover soft skills during the interview stage of acquisition by asking situational based questions to candidates and by asking strategic questions when verifying a candidate's references.

What are the 7 soft skills employers are looking for right now in order to succeed in an uncertain work future?

What are the 7 soft skills employers are looking for? It's important to note that employer expectations are not limited to these 7 soft skills, they are, however, skills that employers identified as important in the current and ever-changing workforce and will make job seekers more employable in an uncertain future.

Below is a list of those soft skills job seekers must have when looking for work:

Adaptability

Adaptability soft skills support the willingness and ability of an individual to change their approach to getting the job done under new and ever-changing circumstances.

The workforce was already experiencing rapid changes, but the pandemic accelerated it seemingly over night. Adaptability soft skills will be needed in order to adapt to the ever-evolving workforce norms and the ability and willingness to continuously upskill.

Commitment to life-long learning

Well before the pandemic hit, rapidly emerging technologies were already disrupting the workforce and both the soft skills and hard skills workers needed to be attractive candidates. In fact, in 2017, Research firm McKinsey estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to reskill or upskill by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this trend, forcing workers across all industry sectors to consider options for how they can reskill or upskill their soft kills and hard skills. When faced with a competitive job market, candidates with advanced and expert job skills will still be in demand and will likely be seen as more attractive to employers. There are many online courses where individuals can access free online courses.

Communication skills

Communication skills as soft skills are even more in-demand as the pandemic has vastly accelerated remote work mandates, a change that is predicted to translate into indefinite options for many organizations post-coronavirus.

Communication skills as soft skills are important regardless of the industry, work being done or job function. One (1) communication skill will not be enough, however. Communication soft skills will include verbal communication, active listening as well as body language skills. Body language communication skills will help candidates more effectively communicate on video interviews as well as help empathize with teams, managers, clients, and customers in a digital workplace.

Leadership

The rise of the contingent workforce has been accelerated by the coronavirus. As social distancing and remote working is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, the workforce will become more fluid, where teams could be working from different timezones and workers at all levels will find themselves taking leadership roles over projects and positions. Professionals with strong leadership skills will be in high demand in a workforce that will require workers who can inspire teams and encourage collaboration during a job or project.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), similar to leadership, is highly important when navigating an uncertain workforce. EQ is the ability to be aware of, control and express our emotions in given situations while also being aware of the emotions and feelings of others around us. With the current state of the global workforce - where workers are uncertain about their future, it's critical to connect with individuals on an emotional level it's a skill that transcends a single industry.

Research firm,  McKinsey has predicted that the demand for emotional skills will grow by 26% by 2030

Problem Solving and critical thinking

A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 37% of employers listed problem solving skills and critical thinking among the top soft skills that candidates were lacking.

At its most basic level, problem solving is a soft skill that focuses on the willingness and ability to accurately assess a situation and arrive at a positive solution. In today's climate, problem solving is an essential soft skill in order to overcome ever-evolving challenges and pivots that are the results of the coronavirus.

Critical thinking as a soft skill is in high demand are the global economy enters the recovery stage of the pandemic and begins to rebuild. The pandemic has created spikes in misrepresentations data, reporting and studies. Individuals who can objectively evaluate information and data from diverse sources and conclude which is credible will be highly valued solving skills. Critical thinking is essential to decision making.

Creativity

Creativity and innovation has already been witnessed across the globe as businesses pivot and find different ways to deliver their goods and services. As organizations continue to recover from the pandemic, the human ingenuity to create, innovate and invent in a post-coronavirus workforce will be critical to obtaining a job.

The takeaway

In the fastest and deepest economic slowdown recorded in the United States, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs since the coronavirus swept across the country.  Across the border, Canada’s unemployment rate has hit a record high of 13.7 per cent as of early June.  While employers will have a significantly larger talent pool to source and engage candidates from, it's critical for job seekers to become as attractive as possible.

Don't learn the truth about the importance of soft skills the hard way!

The coronavirus pandemic has ensured employers will have a significantly larger talent pool to choose from, and job seekers must brush up on all skills to become as attractive to recruiters and hiring teams as possible.

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