Soft Skills in the Age of Covid-19

We are seeing trends towards looking into untraditional metrics for talent that are reshaping how we approach the hiring process. The onset of COVID-19 has only increased our demand for ingenuity in new approaches to finding talent – the disruption caused by the virus has changed the industry for the foreseeable future. However, with this adversity comes the ability to grow, and today I will talk about how you can leverage the development of soft skills into becoming more marketable and hirable as a potential job candidate.

One important factor of this change is the emergence of soft skills analysis as a critical component for the hiring process. From experience, I believe we can all speak of the importance of well-developed soft skills in finding successful candidates.

We’ve all faced numerous challenges throughout our lives, all of which have helped us grow and learn to find success through developing these skills. That being said, soft skills are believed by many to be the key determining factor if some one will be successful in a role. But what are soft skills?

Josh Bersin, a transformational leader in HR, says: “Hard Skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and Soft Skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain).” 

Why are Soft Skills Important?

Soft skills are fundamental to success in the workplace and beyond. 

Furthermore, an IBM research insight titled The enterprise guide to closing the skills gap has an infographic illustrating fundamental skills ranked at the top four out of ten core competencies global executives seek in 2018. Some of the top choices for soft skills included:

  • Willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change;
  • Time management skills and ability to prioritize;
  • Ability to work effectively in team environments;
  • Ability to communicate effectively in business context.

Amongst the rest of the skills, “Capacity for innovation and creativity” was ranked 7, and “ethics and integrity was tied for 8 with “basic computer and software/application skills.” Many STEM-specific skills (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) ranked just out of the top five. In total, 6 out of the top 10 skills were soft skills. 

It’s clear that world leaders in enterprise companies understand the importance of soft skills, and like Bersin, believe that the mastery of certain soft skills leads to success. We are realizing that there is more to success than someone’s degree or technical qualifications. This is because we oftentimes face issues that go beyond the scope of traditional technical expertise.

Skills are the key to navigate work disruption

One particular area where this idea is relevant is the current social distancing protocols we have to follow because of the onset of COVID-19. We are all currently facing a number of issues with adaptability and prioritization – working from home is isolating most of us from our jobs. 

Personally, I’m developing a lot of soft skills because this new environment is forcing me to become more adaptable and flexible. I’m now forced to better manage my time and prioritize many projects on the go, but while also balancing leisure time outside of my responsibilities – new challenges that presented themselves the moment my work space merged with my living space. 

Similarly, critical thinking and complex problem solving is daily being practiced by many others that are dealing with work stoppages . Balancing resources, caring for at risk loved ones, finding productive ways to spend one’s time are just a few that come to mind. The most common obstacle I have heard speaking with family and friends is having a full house and managing those interpersonal relationships communicating in a way that fosters teamwork. 

Even before the outbreak, many noted the potential disruptions in the current workforce requirements that would be instigated by the growth of technological advancements and automations.

The 2016 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report cited that by 2020 over one-third of skills considered important in the workforce today will have changed.

More recently in 2018 RBC did a study predicting that “More than 25% of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade. Fully half will go through a significant overhaul of the skills required.” Both of these studies cited soft skills as being the key to this “fourth industrial revolution”, and I believe that they are also the key to navigating the one we find ourselves in today. 

The issue is that these skills are not formally taught enough. As fundamental as they are, our education focuses on teaching us the aforementioned hard skills, despite the fact that most employers prefer to look into a candidate’s soft skills to determine potential success.

What’s great about our current social isolation situation is that we are being pushed in new ways – forcing us to discover and develop soft skills that we perhaps neglected or did not need in our careers/lives

Quarantine is forcing us to grow

One particular example is how this situation is forcing all of us to become more creative and adaptable for the lack of social interactions we have with others. Those who are in a service based job are being pushed to new heights to continue their jobs.

Personal trainers specifically are a great example. Most trainers are taking the bulk of their business online using virtual spaces to train clients and offer merchandise, training programs and workout videos. Learning how to edit videos and use excel spreadsheets could be something you have to do now that you did not months ago. 

You could also use this time to explore different career possibilities. If a career pivot has been on your mind, carve out some time and research careers you are interested in. Maybe look within your own company and look for areas to internally mobilize and re-skill to another role. Reading job listings and looking for key performance indicators will give a starting point on your road map. 

The aforementioned RBC study mentions how your next career is only a handful of upgrades away: Dental assistant to photographer? Four skills upgraded. Miner to veterinary technician? Three skills upgraded. Cardiology technician to graphic designer? Zero skills upgraded.

Sharing my personal experience, I have made 3 Career changes over the last ten years of my life. Transitioning through being a professional athlete, personal training manager, and now in a HR solutions and business development role has greatly diversified my skill set. The skills I learned throughout my life have helped me find success in all three – from facing adversity in my football career to the dramatic loss of close family members, it has been the soft skills that have carried me through every job I’ve taken.

We are in this together

In sum, I believe that soft skills will carry us through. As the industries and populace begin to adapt to life during COVID-19, we are being forced to think in new ways and adapt to our new surroundings. This opportunity could lead to a career shift, a self-realization, give us all some time to reflect on ourselves and prepare for life after the pandemic.

The salience of soft skills is only going to increase, and we should be prepared, regardless of our goals, to adapt with them in order to find success in the future.

If you are interested in talking more with me about soft skills, or would like to know how Knockri is using AI and machine learning to help companies with hiring during these uncertain times, schedule some time with me and I would be happy to dive into a learning discussion.

References

  1. Bersin, Josh. “Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills: They’re Power Skills”. October 2019.

  2. LaPrade, Annette et al. “The enterprise guide to closing the skills gap: Strategies for building and maintaining a skilled workforce”. IBM Institute for Business Value. 2019.

  3. RBC Office of the CEO. March 2018 bc.com/humanswanted

  4. Gray, Alex. “The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” World Economic Forum. Jan 2016

  5. Zaki, Jamil. “Making Emphasy Central to Your Company Culture”. Harvard Business Review. May 2019.

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