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Are soft skills really important in the workplace? we tell you why

The soft skills or soft skills seem to have become fashionable within the field of Human Resources, but they are much more than a trend. Because these are capacities that result absolutely necessary to be able to face professional tasks successfully, despite not being directly linked to the job position held.

It seems that we are talking about a state-of-the-art trend, but the truth is that soft skills, understood as a labor competence, began to be taken into account at the beginning of the 70s of the last century.

We are going to review their history and evolution to determine to what extent they are important today, and why it is important that companies help their employees to develop them.

Table of Contents

The origin of soft skills

In 1918, Charles Riborg Mann carried out the “Study of Engineering Education”. A report based on research carried out jointly by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center. Charles Riborg's conclusion was that the 85% of job success comes from soft skills or personal skills, while only the 15% is directly related to skills or technical knowledge (hard skills).

At that time this idea was not taken into consideration, but a few years later it would gain strength.

In the early 1970s, the United States military began to realize that teams that obtained the best results were not those with the most technical handling of weapons and tools, but those in which the members had transversal skills that blended well with each other. For example, good communication skills, teamwork, or conflict resolution.

It was the army training manuals that began to refer to soft skills. Defining them as important work-related knowledge that, however, involves minimal or no interaction with machinery or equipment. But, in return, it does require a high level of interaction with other people. What is achieved with this is a better use of available resources, in an environment that is uncertain.

In contrast were hard skills, defined as those essential technical skills to handle military machinery and devices.

From the beginning, the US military was clear that hard skills and soft skills do not compete with each other, but rather complement each other.

Why are soft skills so important at work?

It is enough to take a look at any job offer to realize that companies demand, more and more frequently, that the candidates to fill the vacancy have soft skills.

Following the deepening of the US military in the field of soft skills and their development, the concept quickly passed to the civilian sphere. At the end of the 80s of the last century, there were already many companies looking for candidates who had skills such as teamwork or good communication skills.

What began as something residual, today is something completely normal. In fact, job seekers are beginning to increasingly highlight your soft skills on your resume, because they know that it is something that the company will value a lot.

Things have changed, but why have soft skills become so important for companies? The key seems to lie in the advancement of technology and the need to differentiate human work from what a machine could do.

Soft skills in the era of digital transformation

The digitization of business It is a reality that is unstoppable. So much so that those companies that do not address this transformation will end up disappearing sooner or later.

The appearance of tools capable of automating tasks, and the rapid development that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having, have given rise to a work environment that is now more changeable than it has ever been. These changes occur with dizzying speed and neither companies nor their employees have time to fully adapt before having to change the way they work again to assimilate a new change.

There is a wide debate about to what extent machines and technology will be able to replace the human being at work. Experts believe that many jobs will disappear in the coming decades. Let's see two examples:

Honda is working on a revolutionary fleet of autonomous taxi-vehicles. Capable of carrying passengers at any time of the day or night, without the need for anyone to be behind the wheel. This could be the first step in ending the profession of taxi driver or VTC driver, but also other professional drivers such as bus or truck drivers will be affected by the development of autonomous vehicles.

The customer service staff It has been being replaced for years by chatbots. Instead of assisting us with a human operator, a bot is in charge of resolving the main doubts or complaints that customers may have. As AI develops, these chatbots will become more and more efficient, possibly spelling the end of the human job in customer service.

Also at risk are bank employees, travel agents, supermarket cashiers, And a long etcetera. In return, the development of technology is generating new needs, and then new jobs will emerge that right now we can not imagine.

What do soft skills have to do with all this? Much more than meets the eye because, in the era of digitization, it is those skills that can make the difference and tip the scales in favor of the human being instead of in favor of a machine.

A technological tool is capable of doing tasks with much more precision and speed than a human being, but there is something that it cannot imitate: the interpersonal skills. An AI will never be capable of leadership, truly creative, or empathetic.

The smarter machines get, the more important the social and emotional skills of workers become. Technology will take over (indeed it is already taking over) repetitive and basic tasks, while human beings we are going to focus on performing value-added tasks.

The forecast is that, between now and 2030, employees will decrease their physical workload, and the intellectual and emotional workload will gain prominence in their workday.

Therefore, soft skills are now more important than ever because they highlight the value of the human being compared to the machine.

Other reasons why soft skills are essential

In addition to everything we have seen, there are other reasons that justify the fact that companies are now more interested than ever in soft skills.

At a time when there is a real fight for talent, techniques such as competency interview They allow finding employees who have well-developed soft skills important for the job in the company in question. Thus, people are no longer hired only for their knowledge, but rather its development potential for the future is taken into account.

The soft skills of a person also make it possible to quickly and easily check whether the candidate who seems to best fit the profile sought also fits well with the culture of the company and the way of working in it. This is more important than it seems, because an incorrect choice will make you have to start the selection process all over again and will multiply the costs.

Another reason why so many soft skills are in demand in job offers is because companies are aware that developing these is more complex and time consuming than developing hard skills. If an employee doesn't know how to do a certain task or how to operate a tool, they can be taught and they learn it quickly. On the contrary, if we have integrated a person who does not know how to work in a team into the company, teaching him to do so will be much more complicated and will take more time.

In the past, in the present, and with a view to the future, soft skills or soft abilities are emerging as essential qualities so that people can carry out their work, whatever it is, in the best possible way. If you were one of those who still thought that these abilities are a mere trend that will end up being forgotten, surely at this moment your schemes have changed and you are beginning to appreciate the true importance of this set of abilities that are exclusively human and cannot be replaced by others. a machine.

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