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More on what soft skills are and why you need them

You may have heard that there is a skills gap in the operations field. In fact, 80% of Americans agree that there is a skills gap in the workforce as a whole today.1 

And while your mind may immediately go to the lack of specialized skills that keep your facilities and communities operating, there is another set of skills that are of critical importance. 

Believe it or not, soft skills are just as important as the hard skills you have in your career toolbox. 

What are soft skills? 

Soft skills are interpersonal or people skills that impact your job performance and relationships.  

Soft skills include things like: 

  • Communication 

  • Critical thinking 

  • Listening 

  • Teamwork 

Although these types of skills may seem commonplace or “I have what I have,” they’re actually an area where you can make a significant improvement to benefit your workforce and career. 

Some statistics on soft skills 

Although you may be more focused on the technical skills that got you your job, your employer also values the soft skills for workers and those wanting to get promoted or move into a leadership role. 

And that is reflected in these statistics about soft skills in today’s labor market: 

  • 93% of employers say soft skills are essential or very important in hiring decisions2 

  • Soft skills training boosts productivity and retention by 12% and offers a 250% ROI (return on investment)

It’s clear that soft skills are not only attractive to employers, but they also impact your daily work. How you do the work you do is as important as the work you do these days. 

So, what are the skills that you and your team need to develop, and how can you take steps to do so? 

5 soft skills you & your team need 

Operations professionals have a range of skills in their toolboxes, but soft skills often fall to the wayside as not being considered a priority to develop. Now, within such a rapidly changing workforce, is the time to take steps to grow by developing your soft skills to help you work together more efficiently and confidently. 

Communication 

It’s not always about what you say, but how you say it. And in a world of so much communication through technology, it’s important to hone this skill. 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Are you paying attention to your verbal and nonverbal communication? 

  • Are you communicating clearly through emails, work systems and other digital means? 

  • Would your team or leaders say you communicate clearly, and where do they think you could improve? 

Listening 

How good of a listener are you? This is another area where you can get feedback from the people you interact with daily. They will be able to tell you if you are an active listener and how you can hone that skill.  

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Do you listen fully to others (without just thinking of how you’ll respond)?  

  • Do you ask clear follow-up questions after listening to others? 

  • Do you listen more than you talk? 

Critical Thinking

You probably have to do a good amount of critical thinking and problem-solving with your job – in fact, that’s what draws many people to your profession. But, do you think your critical thinking skills are better now than they were a few years ago? Are you improving? 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Do you invite problem-solving opportunities and weigh in on big decisions? 

  • Do you find creative ways to gather and present data to help make decisions? 

  • When you need to make a decision, do you rely only on what you think, or do you get input from others? 

Teamwork

No one works on an island – and no matter what you do, you have to depend somewhat on others on your team. This may be an exciting or frustrating part of your job, but there are always ways to improve your approach to teamwork (even if you can’t change the people on your team). 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Would you consider yourself a team player, always willing to help your coworkers?  

  • Do you seek out opportunities to learn from your team? 

  • Do you also seek out opportunities to teach your team from your expertise? 

Time Management

With tighter budgets and too much to do within the workday, you must find a way to make the most of your work hours. Growing your time management skills is a great way to learn to be more efficient in your work and planning. 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Can you effectively organize your daily tasks ask for help when needed? 

  • Do you have the tools you need to prioritize your work?  

  • Can you easily see what work you have and haven’t completed? 

Opportunities for developing soft skills

If those questions you’re asking yourself have made you wonder how you can improve your soft skills, here are a few ways you can start today. 

Online Training

There are plenty of venues for online training that are free or low cost. Whether you use YouTube tutorials or an online learning system, brushing up on your soft skills can be as simple as doing a Google search. 

Internal Courses 

It’s possible that your organization already offers internal training and professional development to help develop traits like your soft skills. Ask your human resources department what is available to you. 

With these ideas, you should be well on your way to honing your soft skills to help you stay competitive and grow in your industry. Growing your soft skills may even be the next step you need to take to be a better leader or step into a leadership position and make a difference. 

Work through our soft skills checklist to discover your strongest and weakest skills. 

 

https://research.udemy.com/research_report/2017-skills-gap-report/

2 http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/cceaf9_ec9ed750296142f18efdd49f4930f6d3.pdf 

https://news.umich.edu/soft-skills-training-boosts-productivity/ 

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