Developing soft skills requires a lot of practice. Unlike hard skills, there is no magic formula or test to prove that you have improved. You measure your success in developing soft skills by how well you interact with those around you. It can be with family, friends, colleagues and customers.
Hard skills vs soft skills
The terms hard and soft skills have their origins in military science. In the late 1950s, the US Army developed a science-based approach to the military training program. As a result, the researchers identified the importance of professional skills (hard skills) for military personnel and human components (soft skills). It stated that hard skills are skills for working mainly with machines. Soft skills are skills for working with people and papers. After the terms took root in military science and psychology, they began to be used in business.
What are hard skills?
Professional (hard) skills are a set of skills and abilities related to the technical side of any activity. They are usually quantifiable and developed in the learning process. To obtain hard skills, you must learn, memorize and analyze information. This is the knowledge and experience that we gain at school or in the process of learning in the workplace.
Hard skills are the minimum skills necessary to operate at work. These can be plumbing or carpentry skills, computer programming skills, or whatever. Hard skills are tested using exams and theoretical tests. They are easy to assess objectively. Once you acquire professional skills, they usually stay with you throughout your career. For example, when you learn to drive a car, you will retain this skill for life, even if it can be partially weakened without practice.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills definition is simple. They are skills that are not technical or job-related. As a rule, human (gentle) skills are associated with a person’s personal experience, character, and temperament. They are manifested inefficient communication and interaction with colleagues, customers, and partners. Soft skills are somewhat subjective and more based on emotional aspects than any specific skill.
Most of the soft skills you possess have not been taught to you. They are a natural result of your emotional development and life experiences. To master soft skills, you must understand people, feel their moods, and empathize. Above all, such skills take longer to develop than professional ones. The leading soft skills are:
- Communication: active listening, negotiations, emotional intelligence, persuasion and argumentation, teamwork, customer focus), coaching tools as GROW model.
- Collaboration: team management and development, coordination.
- Creativity: creative thinking, complex problem solving, time management.
- Changing: adaptability, growth mindset, life-long learning, and education.
However, being a good specialist is not enough. A lot of jobs are threatened by the development of AI, automatization, and robotics.
AI, automatization, risks for technical jobs
Robots and artificial intelligence continue to develop. Due to technological progress, experts are already discussing the extinction of some professions, including technical ones.
Accountants, bookkeeping, data entry, assembly, and factory workers are among the jobs AI will replace in the nearest future.
Despite everything announced by the companies below, that they are here to help workers to make their work easier, they may simply replace them with robots.
Boston Dynamics’ New Robot has a Warehouse Job.
The new generation robot called Stretch, designed by Boston Dynamics, will be available in the market next year. This four-wheeled robot has an arm that can lift fifty pounds. It can be used in warehouses moving and lifting heavy boxes or unloading trucks. The company’s next steps are improving the robot’s AI and manoeuvrability. The developers state that the mechanism will complement human warehouse labour rather than replace it.
Office jobs at risks: UiPath Closes $750 Million in Series F Funding
The UiPath company was founded in 2005 as a small Microsoft and Google subcontractor. Today UioAth is a 35 billion dollar value IT business. The company develops advanced software for businesses that use AI-powered computer bots to automate specific clerical work. Software features range from a paper document, photo, or PDF data extraction to filling out forms and database updating.
Like its competitors, the company clarified that digital solution development doesn’t aim to replace human clerk workers. It instead lightens the workload by removing monotonous and routine administrative tasks. However, considering their financial interest, employers will more willingly invest in software that is cheaper than human labour wage.
Which soft skills to develop?
The figure below, extracted from The Future of Jobs Report 2020, shows the top skills that employers are looking for. These include critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence, and problem-solving.
Conclusion on Soft Skills
Talk about soft skills (human skills) vs hard skills would be incomplete without mentioning occupations where one or another skill prevails:
Hard over soft. For example, a scientist can be a genuine pro and do an excellent job. On the other hand, he may lack teamwork and communication abilities.
Equal hard and soft. Lawyers, accountants, and customs officers. These specialists require a set of professional as well as human skills. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking and analysis are a few of them.
Soft over hard. Sales, business, politics, or creative professions. You will need several social competencies to be effective in sales. You must speak convincingly in public, listen to win over the interlocutor, etc.
Having well-balanced hard and soft skills is essential to build a successful career. Professional skills help a person find a job and do it with high quality. Human skills help to become a successful manager. Therefore, you are making the right decision if you focus on developing both skill types and keeping them balanced.
If any questions or comments, please reach out! David Gousset.