Management Monday: Managing Soft Skills
In the hit show Downton Abbey, the kitchen cook, Mrs. Patmore, is terrified when she hears a phone ring for the first time, a sound which she describes as “the call of a banshee.” This period drama does a brilliant job of highlighting the difficult transition of technology into the household and into people’s work lives. The electrical mixer, for example, leaves Mrs. Patmore deeply threatened. She frowns on how such devices may influence the quality of her master kitchen. Little does she know there are long-term consequences of technology concerning basic skills that she would in fact be mortified to have impact her kitchen performance standards.
Ironically, it would seem the tables have turned since the time period depicted by Downton Abbey. Not only are employees and job candidates highly familiar with “the call of a banshee,” but many are too absorbed in technology. This isn’t to say that technology and computer skills aren’t important, because they are. In fact, it’s becoming almost obsolete to list Microsoft Word or Power Point on a resume because they’re considered basic skills. This isn’t all bad, as technology has certainly sped up previously slow processes and opened up worlds of possibility in the business universe.
However, the complication that has surfaced during the rise of technology in business is the decrease in soft skills across the workforce. According to the Wall Street Journal, Manpower Groups 2012 Talent Shortage Survey found that nearly 20% of employers cited a lack of soft skills as an important reason they couldn’t hire needed staff. This problem is increasing because it seems to be partially tied to generations entering the workforce. One Business Insider article points to an EY study for clarification on this topic. Gen Y (Millennial) employees are tech-savvy, able to leverage social media opportunities and enthusiastic, however, many are weak in the areas of team player, and productive. The situation is sometimes referred to as the “skills gap” between generations.
So what are these soft skills that employees can benefit from gaining?
List of Soft Skills
- Time Management
- Emotional Intelligence
- Team Building
- Conflict Resolution
- Personal Values
- Work Ethic
But, the more prevalent question most employees seek is how to improve these skills. Though everyone wants to hear there’s a magic short cut, there’s not. The best place to start is identifying soft skills that need building by paying attention to daily interactions and assessing the status of relationships. Many employees are even able to inquire what soft skills their employer would like to see improved upon by asking questions like, “do you feel like my communication skills are effective? Or “what can I do to improve my teamwork abilities?” Once weaknesses are identified, it’s time for growth. Any change of habit takes research on methodology, commitment, practice, trial and error, and in many cases professional training. The trick is to get started and be conscious of goals right off the bat and on a daily basis.