20 Jul 2012

Importance of ‘soft skills’ in the workplace

As seen recently in a leading Australian Human Resources magazine, the importance of ‘soft skills’, including creativity, flexibility, diplomacy and original thought in the modern workplace is gaining momentum.  In an increasingly complex business environment these skills can help organisation’s develop new and better solutions to problems, as traditional ways of interacting with clients, colleagues and the public are becoming less relevant.

So what are soft skills and how do they differ from the more recognisable ‘hard skills’? The easiest way to explain is by way of an example:</p

If we take the example of a tax accountant, a role most people are likely to have some familiarity with (if only once a year!) hard skills would include:

  • a relevant degree/diploma
  • mathematical ability
  • MS Excel knowledge and skills
  • knowledge of relevant tax legislation

Soft skills may include:

  •  Actively listening to clients
  • Coming up with new and innovative solutions to client problems
  • Engaging well with colleagues
  • Communicating with clients and colleagues in a way that makes them feel heard and respected
  • Using strengths accordingly and recognising weaknesses by asking for assistance or referring certain work to others

Both skills are, of course, important.  A diplomatic, friendly, flexible but unqualified accountant is not likely to be very successful.  However, soft skills are often more difficult to identify, particularly during recruitment when contact is limited and there are few opportunities for a candidate to display all aspects of their personality and abilities.

So, how can an organisation readily identify these soft skills

As indicated by the example above soft skills are a mixture of personality, values and intelligence.  While intelligence may not be immediately identified as relevant to soft skills, the ability to be innovative and creative taps an important intellectual construct, Fluid Intelligence, which refers to mental operations employed to solve novel problems. It includes drawing inferences, forming concepts, generating and testing hypotheses and problem-solving.  Supporting this creative aspect of intelligence are attitudes, dispositions and values that will allow it to translate into those other soft skills that are important to organisations.

RightPeople has a range of psychometric tests and personality measures that can help you identify these important skills.  Our cognitive ability tests measure both fluid intelligence and other abilities that are more associated with hard skills, including general knowledge and comprehension, to allow you to identify that balance of soft and hard skills relevant to your organisation.

We also have a range of personality and values assessments that assess such traits as sociability, openness to experience and underlying values and motivations guiding behaviour at work.

Contact us to find out more about our range of soft skills assessments.

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