By Dr Eugene Brink
Much of the post-Covid-19 world is uncertain and ambiguous, but one thing is certain: It will require a range of soft skills to navigate the workplace and success.
What are soft skills then, as opposed to hard skills? Why are they so vital to success in this swiftly and ever-changing career landscape? And most importantly, what are the particular soft skills required in the future?
Writing on the skills required for a post-pandemic world, education technologist Ulrik Juul Christensen argues that “for many business leaders, it is not so much about what we can achieve, but rather how we want to act in the world”. Career expert and contributor Alison Doyle succinctly defines it as “non-technical skills that relate to how you work”. For instance, these include how you interact with colleagues, problem-solving, and ways of managing your work. Much of this will not be taught during a formal course or in textbooks, it is more practical and personal and must in most cases be practised to enhance its improvement.
So-called “hard skills” are in essence the technical skills you need to perform a certain task and are less interpersonal. The two are not necessarily distinct or opposites in terms of attaining career success, but overlap in many ways and can and should complement one another.
“In fact, as we move forward, these skills should no longer be viewed as ‘soft’; increasingly, they will be determinants of success,” says Christensen. A report by Deloitte Access Economics found that by as soon as 2030 a whopping two-thirds of all jobs will be focused on soft skills.
Doyle says examples of soft skills include interpersonal (people) skills, communicating effectively, listening properly, managing time, and empathy.
“When soft skills are part of the toolkit, leaders can improve their decision-making with a more holistic view of the impact, both in the short-term and for the future,” says Christensen. He refers to the six areas of education in the 21st century identified by Charles Fadel, founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign: courage, curiosity, mindfulness, resilience, ethics, and leadership.
Stephanie L, head of sponsored content at TopUniversities.com, adds flexibility and adaptability to the list. “As businesses worldwide see a stark rise in the number of employees being able to work from home, it’s likely this new way of working will last even after the pandemic passes. While being flexible in work was once aligned with geographic mobility, it is now about having an open mindset, being able to work well under pressure, adjusting to new and unexpected deadlines, prioritizing tasks and, in some instances taking on additional responsibilities.”
Agreeing with Doyle, she says social intelligence and communication should be front and centre – even in more digital work settings. “Communication and social intelligence go hand-in-hand and there is still a need for genuine human connection and understanding in every job role.
“To have good emotional intelligence is to be aware of, and demonstrate empathy for, others’ emotions and behaviour, which is crucial, especially when people are feeling uneasy. And this is also where good communication skills are critical; as many of us continue to work from home, clarity in emails and virtual meetings is a must to cement trust and retain high productivity levels.”
Alison Doyle, 26 September 2020, “What are soft skills”, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-are-soft-skills-2060852.
Stephanie L, 18 August 2021, “9 skills you’ll need to succeed in a post-Coronovirus business world”, https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/careers-advice/9-skills-youll-need-succeed-post-coronavirus-business-world.
Ulrik Juul Christensen, 9 November 2020, “The Importance Of Soft Skills In A Post-Pandemic World”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ulrikjuulchristensen/2020/11/09/the-importance-of-soft-skills-in-a-post-pandemic-world/?sh=1b7db8b55c26.