An essential mix of employee soft skills for the modern workplace

By Reshma Parveen & Priya Chetty on April 17, 2023

Employee soft skills are defined as the combination of communication skills, social skills, people skills, stress management skills, attitude, personality traits or character, social intelligence, career attributes and emotional intelligence. These skills help employees to work well with others, navigate the workplace more efficiently and achieve organizational goals. Based on the organizational outcomes, goals, management, and expectations, soft skills exist in various types (Dyson, 2021).

Organisations find it important to create a workforce that is emotionally intelligent, self-aware, and can critically think and advocate. This requires digital literacy and communication skills on the part of its leaders. However, a critical feature of the modern workplace is dynamism. It is constantly evolving due to automation, digitalisation and globalisation. Leaders look for teams that have the interpersonal, emotional and social skills to keep up with these constant changes.

Importance of employee soft skills in the workplace

Decision-making, problem-solving, time management, leadership, and teamwork are some of the common soft skills that have been around for a while. These abilities help employees cooperate more effectively, come up with novel solutions to problems, make intelligent decisions, manage their time effectively, and motivate and lead their teams. These skills support people in increasing their productivity, developing enduring relationships with others, and achieving organisational goals. They also support an employee’s overall performance improvement and personal and professional growth.

However, new-age employee soft skills are more important now than ever due to complex workplace cultures and digital automation.

Types of employee soft skills needed in the modern workplace
Types of employee soft skills needed in the modern workplace

Empathetic individuals make good team players

The ability to understand and feel another person’s feelings is known as empathy. In the modern workplace, empathy is becoming more and more important since it helps employees build stronger relationships, improve communication, and resolve conflicts more successfully. Empathetic individuals make better team players, problem solvers, and leaders.

Also, they typically exhibit higher emotional control and self-awareness. Role-playing, active listening drills, and empathy mapping are a few techniques for imparting empathy. An empathy map, for instance, can be used to assist people in comprehending the struggles, drives, and emotions of their colleagues.

EXAMPLE

Unilever can serve as a case study to understand how empathy affects the workplace. The organisation implemented a global initiative called “Crafting Brands for Life”. As part of this initiative, Unilever sought to understand the needs and aspirations of consumers in emerging markets. Through empathy and active listening, Unilever was able to develop new products that met the specific needs of its consumers, resulting in increased sales and brand loyalty.

The Economic Times, 2013

Emotionally intelligent individuals make good leaders

The ability to identify, comprehend, and control one’s own emotions as well as those of others is known as emotional intelligence. Employees need this skill because it fosters better connections, more effective communication, and better conflict management. Emotional intelligence is also crucial for effective leadership, decision-making, and overall job performance. 

Individuals with strong emotional intelligence typically collaborate better, solve problems better, and are more self-aware. There are several methods to impart emotional intelligence, including self-reflection, criticism, and mindfulness exercises. For instance, mindfulness exercises like meditation can improve emotional intelligence and assist people in regulating their emotions.

EXAMPLE

Google has a program called “Search Inside Yourself,” that focuses on emotional intelligence and mindfulness training.

Nair and Vasudev, 2021

Self aware employees take better decisions

Self-awareness is the skill for reflection and introspection, as well as having a thorough understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Employees need to be self-aware in the workplace because it enables them to recognise their prejudices, understand how they affect others, and effectively regulate their emotions. Employees at work benefit from self-awareness in a variety of ways. It can result in enhanced decision-making, increased productivity, and better communication and teamwork.

There are several techniques for imparting self-awareness, including self-reflection, coaching, and feedback. For instance, regular manager-staff feedback sessions can assist staff in growing their self-awareness and identifying areas for development.

EXAMPLE

Adobe implemented a program called “Check-In” which aimed to promote regular feedback and coaching between employees and managers. Through this program, employees were able to enhance self-awareness.

Hinds, Sutton and Rao, 2014

Digital literacy skill increases employee productivity

The capacity to find, evaluate, and communicate information through digital technology is known as digital literacy. Employee digital literacy is becoming increasingly important as modern businesses increasingly rely on technology to run properly. Digitally literate workers are more effective at their jobs, collaborate successfully, and engage with clients and coworkers online. A range of methods, such as workshops, online training, and mentorship programmes, can be used to spread digital literacy. To increase employee digital literacy, for instance, organisations offer online training courses.

EXAMPLE

As part of digital transformation, GE provided digital literacy training to its employees to help them understand the company’s digital strategy and the various digital tools and technologies used.

GE News, 2017

Stress management is the most required employee soft skill

Stress management is the practise of effectively managing and coping with stress. Employees should develop stress management techniques at work since doing so will improve productivity, help them maintain a healthy work-life balance, and prevent burnout. Employees who can effectively control their stress tend to be more resilient, focused, and able to handle challenging situations. People can manage their stress through a variety of interventions, including mindfulness practises, physical activity, and time management techniques. For instance, mindfulness techniques like meditation and deep breathing can assist people in controlling their emotions and lowering their stress levels.

EXAMPLE

Accenture implemented a program called “Taking Care of Business” that aimed to support employees in managing their stress levels.

Accenture, 2021

To sum up, critical soft skills for the job include empathy, emotional intelligence, digital literacy, self-awareness, and stress management. Organisational performance is also aided by other abilities such as active listening, cooperation, problem-solving, networking, dispute resolution, time management, and work ethics. For the purpose of fostering a culture of learning and development, workplaces must continuously focus on enhancing employees’ soft skills.

References

  • Accenture (2021) Caring for employees = Caring for business.
  • Dyson, E. (2021) Soft skills in the workplace: Why they matter and how to hire for them, People Scout. Available at: https://www.peoplescout.com/insights/soft-skills-in-the-workplace/.
  • GE News (2017) GE Launches Brilliant Skills Curriculum To Train Workers For Digital Industrial Future. Boston.
  • Hinds, R., Sutton, R. and Rao, H. (2014) Adobe: Building Momentum by Abandoning Annual Performance Reviews for “Check-Ins”.
  • Nair, J. and Vasudev, B. (2021) ‘Mindfulness Training at Google’, The IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 15(4), p. 48.
  • The Economic Times (2013) ‘Unilever picks India to “craft brands for life” ’, The Economic Times, February.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).

 

I have completed a Bachelor of Arts that included English as one of my degree subjects. I am doing freelance academic writing for two years. I have extensive experience in writing academic assignments, research proposals, essays, reports, and dissertations, business plans. I have sound knowledge of common referencing styles such as APA, Harvard and MLA. I have commendable knowledge of various online search engines and libraries. I am proficient in using MS Word, and PowerPoint. I can produce documents without any plagiarism, or grammatical errors.

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