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Soft skills vs Hard Skills

24 November 2021

As technology continues to change the nature of work and human interaction, hard skills such as engineering and machine learning, are becoming increasingly desirable.

However important those skills are, research shows that soft skills consistently rank among the traits that companies need most.

So, what’s the difference between soft skills vs. hard skills? While the term “hard skills” generally refers to specific and technical knowledge sets (such as programming languages or data analytics), soft skills in the workplace are by nature more cross-functional. 

Soft skills include social-emotional capabilities and traits such as adaptability and resilience. While they are often seen as innate personality traits, most people can build up their soft skills through study and practice, just like they might build a set of hard skills. 

What Are Examples of Soft Skills in the Workplace? 

The category of soft skills includes sought-after traits such as:

Why Are Soft Skills in the Workplace Important?

Simply put, soft skills are what set the best-performing employees and organisations apart.

Imagine, for instance, a highly innovative tech startup. While the development of the product itself is essential, if the startup’s leadership cannot inspire and motivate employees or tell the story of what makes their product special, it may never see the light of day.

Or if and employee tasked with client relations at a large institution isn’t able to communicate with clients professionally and empathetically or ensure deliverables are completed on time, the business’ bottom line might suffer.

In today’s workplaces, even the most technically gifted employees will need to demonstrate soft skills such as dependability and creative thinking to flourish. These traits simply cannot me overlooked any longer.

How to Build Soft Skills for a successful career (in the Workplace)

Although soft skills subtle, it is more than possible to advance in these areas. 

Consider the following strategies when you decide to up-skill and build soft skills in the workplace.

1. Identify Areas for Improvement

While soft skills can seem hard to pin down, existing data can often provide a starting point to improve in this area. 

For example, if you are a company seeking to improve staff performance, customer satisfaction data is invaluable for identifying gaps in staff communications and customer relations skills. Conversely, if you are seeking to improve your professional performance with customers, welcome their feedback to discover whether they have experienced unhelpful or un-empathetic service, or not. If that’s the case it’s more than likely that you could use training to develop soft skills such as communication and handling difficult conversations. 

2. Seek Individual Feedback and Mentorship

Performance reviews are a great tool to assess and discover any area of strength and weakness. Managers can help you identify patterns and develop specific plans focusing on how to improve soft skills. 

Since concepts such as the appropriate tone to take in a professional email or the ideal way to deescalate a tricky interaction can be hard to convey in the abstract, managers are uniquely positioned to respond to an evolving situation and either coach employees on how to handle it or share the positives and negatives of their approach. 

3. Lead by Example

Everyone also has the opportunity to teach by example and be a strong model of soft skills, no matter what role you invest in the workplace

4. Evaluate Internal Development Opportunities

Internally, companies might consider team, division, or organisation-wide trainings. Soft skills with more concrete applications, like organisation or time management, are particularly well-suited to this type of approach.

5. Put Soft Skills in the Workplace Into Practice

Other soft skills, like project management or creativity, can be developed through a combination of training programs and hands-on assignments or exercises. For example, you might be asked to bring your own campaign ideas to a planning meeting at which you receive feedback, or even be given an opportunity to lead a project that would normally be handled by your manager. Non-critical projects in particular are often rich with opportunities for developing employees.

6. Consider Soft Skills Training

When internal training isn’t enough, many organisations send employees through external courses or programs to develop essential soft skills. This approach can pay dividends when it comes to skills like strategic thinking or innovation. Often, an outside perspective is what’s needed to freshen up an organisation’s approach. 

English Connection courses designed to build soft skills, cover topics ranging from interpersonal communication, to presentation, to personal leadership, with many offerings in between.


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