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Soft Skills

Soft skills, which are commonly defined as non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, are vital to organizations and can impact culture, mindsets, leadership, attitudes, and behaviors.

These skills include advanced communication and negotiation skills, empathy, leadership and management, teaching and training, adaptability and continuous learning. Development of soft skills will significant portions of the workforce within the next 5-10 years will be required in order to maintain team efficiencies and adaptation to the new workforce that has been accelerated due to the pandemic to include more remote teams.

Companies will be forced to change the employee’s processes and behaviors, which will be a daunting task. To facilitate these changes, soft skills will become more important than before when jobs tended to be longer-term and in a single location. Both managers and employees will need to embrace the new forms of soft skills from previous practices. For example, I was always in favor of short meetings, followed by one-on-ones by “walk-around management” to identify any upcoming risks and diffusing them before they became issues. How the new soft skills may not be that much different and need not be codified as many HR offices would prefer; it is all about knowing your people and the project.

Effective soft skills must go both ways, which means that at least on on-on-one meetings, the manager and employee feel comfortable opening up to each other, discussing not only the project but even personal responsibilities that may hinder the job. It is about being open to work schedules because let’s face it there are morning and evening people there is taking care of home duties such as children, shopping, cooking, and even walking the dog. As one-on-one gets more comfortable, the employees will also become more and more comfortable with the group. I think it is still important to keep the meetings short, although when they go along, that’s OK when we are just getting comfortable with each other. For example, there is nothing wrong with hearing about how one kid got his cheek nearly broken with a baseball if we then sit around discussing a really good story for him to tell the girls. Likewise, stories about how things have gone really well or really bad in the past only spread camaraderie and knowledge and, as such, are also important. As for teaching and learning, it may well become much more important to have some standards on the level of detail, format, and the like, especially if you might grow and have to bring on new people that are located almost anywhere. I am also a fan of video conferencing, especially now when you can change your backgrounds, makes for some good stories. The thing to remember is meeting first, socialization second. Most of all, try not to make it a chore but a pleasure.

With the accelerated coming of the “new world,” soft skills are as important as they always were, perhaps even more. Good soft skills will make newcomers feel welcome and greatly reduce turnover rates because once people discover they can up and leave, a good team is the best reason to stay.

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