Soft skills play an essential role in the modern human resource

By Reshma Parveen & Priya Chetty on April 13, 2023

Employee soft skills refer to a set of personal attributes, characteristics, and communication abilities that enable the workforce to interact effectively and harmoniously with peers and other social settings. Soft skills are often referred to as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills” and are distinct from technical or hard skills that are specific to a particular job or field.

Increasing emphasis on soft skills in the workforce

The modern workplace has undergone significant changes in recent years due to technological advancements, globalization, and changing workforce demographics. Many scholars in their recent works have concluded that the modern workplace has radically transformed in technological, operational and social spheres (Grunberg et al., 2008; Mićić et al., 2022). Historically the focus of many businesses has been on hard skills or technical skills to complete repetitive tasks. The importance of hard skills is gradually declining in the hiring prerequisites due to the increasing automation of repetitive tasks (Chavan, 2018).

Collaboration and communication had become easier due to digitalisation especially after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic when many businesses were forced to go remote. It has enabled the workforce to improve work-life balance, organize work better, enhance productivity, and innovate. Modern workplaces are characterised by complexity and uncertainty. As a result, most organisations see human resources as a critical asset responsible for their performance and success. It is therefore that organisations are investing in training employees with not only hard or technical skills but also soft skills (Bhati, 2022).

Key soft skills for the 21st-century workplace

A key element of the workplace of the twenty-first century is globalization, where workplaces are multicultural and diverse and require employees to interact with people from different backgrounds. In order to understand instructions and increase efficiency, it is essential to have excellent interpersonal skills (East and Dean, 2019).

Key soft skills required in a modern workplace
Key soft skills required in a modern workplace
  1. Teamwork is the ability to work collaboratively with peers towards a common goal. It includes a set of behaviours and attitudes that contribute towards a team’s efforts to reach a common goal. Teamwork also implies that an employee knows how to communicate, coordinate, and align his actions with those of his team members. Other skills that help them work efficiently in a team include interpersonal skills, decision-making, leadership and adaptability (Ilias et al., 2012; Creo, Mareque and Portela-Pino, 2021).
  2. Problem-solving is the ability to identify problems, analyze information, and develop effective solutions. It is important because it enables employees to navigate multifaceted challenges and devise innovative solutions that maximize productivity, competitiveness, and success (Ismet et al., 2020). Moreover, according to El-Tabal (2020), it also shows a person’s ability to look at stimuli from all angles and perceive systemic weaknesses.
  3. Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor one’s own feelings and emotions and use them to guide their actions. It helps them in decision-making and intellectual growth (Ishak, Yunus and Hassan, 2011; Kumarr and Sharma, 2019). It includes 5 main components; self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills (Troshina, 2020). Employees, especially managers, need to have a high level of emotional intelligence to be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team and motivate them.
  4. Critical thinking is the ability to reflect, analyse and evaluate existing information through logic and reason. It stands as an important 21st-century skill because it helps managers look beyond the face value of information, express injustice and unfairness, be objective and make informed business decisions (Changwong, Sukkamart and Sisan, 2018; Heard et al., 2020).
  5. Leadership is the ability to motivate and inspire others, make decisions, and manage teams. This soft skill is important because it helps reduce conflicts among team members, and work stress, enables the work-life balance of employees, increases communication efficiency, and boosts employees’ commitment and decision-making (Ariratana, Saowanee and Tang, 2015; Sadq, 2019).
  6. Time management is the ability to prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently, and meet deadlines. It requires a combination of planning, organization, and self-discipline, as well as the ability to balance competing demands and adapt to changing circumstances. It is a crucial soft skill for employees and management as it helps attain a good work-life balance. Most importantly, it is instrumental in promoting a culture of accountability and efficiency in the workplace (IRIKEFE, 2018; Sainz, Ferrero and Ugidos, 2019).
  7. Adaptability is the ability to be flexible, open-minded, and adaptable to new situations and challenges. It enhances efficiency as the employee can adapt to external or internal circumstances quickly; optimise the work process, be more receptive to feedback and integrate it, and foster resilience and emotional intelligence (Granziera, Collie and Martin, 2019; Nejad, Nejad and Farahani, 2021).
  8. Creativity is the ability to generate novel ideas, approaches, and solutions that maximize innovation, competitiveness, and success. These innovative ideas can be used by employees to optimize their work processes, develop unique and original ideas, foster a culture of experimentation and risk-taking, and promote collaboration and teamwork (Serrat, 2017; Ohly, 2018; Boyles, 2022).
  9. Persuasion is the ability to influence and convince others to adopt a particular idea, viewpoint, or course of action. It is an important skill which can help to motivate team members, communicate their vision and objectives more effectively, drive sales and marketing success, promote conflict resolution, and enhance personal growth too (Fisher and González, 2013; Jena and Pradhan, 2020).

Studies that have emphasised soft skills over technical skills

Numerous studies have demonstrated the value of soft skills in the workplace. Vasanthakumari (2019), argued that soft skills rather than technical skills have a major role in a leader’s performance in the workplace. Soft skills are crucial in a variety of situations, including contract negotiations, pitching fresh business concepts, and forming new connections. According to (Chavan, 2018) soft skills also enable:

  • Career progression and promotion.
  • Navigate interpersonal relationships.
  • Communicate with clients and customers better.

Additionally, it also promotes invention and creativity that is yet to be automated. Soft skills are crucial, and this cannot be emphasised enough. Possessing a robust set of interpersonal and communication skills is essential to professional success in today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing job market. By prioritizing the development of soft skills, individuals can position themselves as highly sought-after candidates and valuable contributors in the workplace.


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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.