employee engagement

Soft Skills, Hard Benefits


Post: Nov 25, 2016

By: Megan Weekley


When describing Corporate Learning at Western Continuing Studies, I often tell people that we specialize in soft skills training.  Sometimes this is met with a knowing head-nod, but often times it can be met with a look of puzzled confusion.

So, what are soft skills?

To describe soft skills, I often contrast them with what they are not – hard skills.  Hard skills are technical or professional skills related to the specific duties and requirements of a job.  So, things like welding, medical expertise like diagnosis or consulting, computer programming, or other skills that can be taught and whose presence is testable through exams.  Others phrases that are often used for these types of skills include: ‘people skills’, ‘interpersonal skills’, ‘social skills’ or ‘transferable skills’.

Why are soft skills important? 

Research shows that proficiency in a short list of competency areas, which focus mainly on soft skills, are the true predictors of success in almost every job.  The predictors are: professionalism; interpersonal skills; problem solving and adaptability; and personal value commitment.  For those who manage people and projects, there are additional predictors of success which include: goal setting; assigning tasks and providing feedback; as well as the ability to motivate others.

The unfortunate reality is that in the hiring or promotion process, soft skills are rarely given their due and are often cast aside in favour of “required” or hard skills.  The result of not digging deeper, beyond the hard skills a candidate possesses, is often employee failure. 

Did you know that 46% of newly hired employees fail within the 18 months, and only 19% achieve unequivocal success?

Whether you’re a people manager, an HR professional responsible for hiring, or simply an employee looking to give your resume a boost, a focus on soft skills cannot be undervalued.