A comprehensive skill set includes both hard and soft skills. But what are these? And what makes a skill either “hard” or “soft”?
On the skills definition page of their website, Indeed, a popular recruitment platform, defines soft skills as “…abilities that relate to how you work and how you interact with other people.” This means that while they might be “soft”, and more difficult to quantify, they are crucial in the modern workplace.
These skills are also an essential part of building a company and a career, regardless of the industry. Read more about soft skills, how they differ from hard skills and how to strengthen them, below.
What are soft and hard skills?
Soft skills are interpersonal skills. These are capabilities that have more to do with someone’s personality and the traits they have developed over time, than what they have studied. These skills are also referred to as core skills or essential skills, which might be more helpful ways to describe them, because “soft” can have a vague connotation.
Examples of soft skills include communication, work ethic, adaptability, creativity and problem-solving. These are very broad categories and can involve many other subsets of skills such as listening, confidence, negotiation, writing, public speaking, empathy, and the list goes on!
Hard skills, on the other hand, are the technical skills needed to do a job. These abilities enable you to do job-specific duties. For example, studying computer science at university can teach someone how to code and build software, which means they can carry out such duties in their job. Therefore, computer programming is a hard skill.
As these abilities are easier to define, evaluate and measure, they are often considered more concrete. However, as we can already see from looking at the examples in the previous point, both types of skills are important and often go hand in hand.
How do soft and hard skills work together?
To get a better understanding of the difference between these types of skills, Indeed’s article “10 Reasons Why Soft Skills Are Important” explains: “Though hard skills show off your experience and understanding of a particular, measurable ability, soft skills often indicate your ability to work with others and grow within a company.”
For HR managers who are recruiting employees, both soft and hard skills are taken into account to gauge an applicant’s suitability for a position. A company with the most technically proficient employees can fall apart if team members can’t work together. There needs to be some kind of cooperation, and “soft” interaction for any business to grow or evolve. On the other hand, a less technically skilled company could grow and learn the relevant practical skills together if they are creative and can work together as a team. Depending on the industry of course!
Why are soft skills important?
We’ve covered what soft skills are, what hard skills are, and the difference between them. It’s also been touched on how hard and soft skills can work together. This is because while it’s possible to have employees who perform routine tasks in isolation, there needs to be some kind of cooperation, and “soft” interaction for any business to grow or evolve.
How you interact with people and deal with challenges says a lot about your potential longevity at a company. If you cannot communicate clearly, work in a team and aren’t good at solving problems, you will probably struggle in any kind of work environment. Maintaining good relationships takes effort in any situation. In the workplace, it’s more effective to hire people who can build networks and thrive in the long term.
However, the truth is that interpersonal skills don’t always come naturally and can take effort to learn. You can read books and build on core competencies by studying independently, but mastering these abilities takes time and practice. For example, you can theoretically understand what to do in a tense situation in a meeting, but it takes practice to deal with conflict constructively.
If you’re a manager, this is probably something you’ve had to deal with. It’s also something you’ve probably learnt through trial and error. But you don’t have to! You can upskill yourself with training to improve your competencies, just as you would for hard skills. It’s never too late to upskill in this area.
How to strengthen your soft skills
Reading more about what these core competencies are is a good starting point. From there, you can take courses. We’d recommend learning in a dynamic setting either in person or online, where you can interact with peers. This enhances your opportunities to practise what you are learning about with others, ensuring that you get both theoretical and practical knowledge of the relevant skill.
To expand on certain skills, like creativity, you could take a course outside of the workplace. A creative writing course or even an art class could help you to learn to think differently and exercise a different part of your brain. You’ll also meet people in the course, which can help you to refine your social skills.
However, it’s often more worthwhile to attend a course that is directly applicable to the skills that you want to learn in your chosen role or profession. Learning a skill like coaching, for example, is a highly effective way to hone a variety of soft skills. Learning to manage and motivate a team can also help develop your interpersonal capacity. Other ideas include taking courses about human behaviour or interpersonal communication.
Learn valuable soft skills with SACAP Global
If you want to improve your interpersonal skills and expand on your core social abilities, SACAP Global has a range of specialised short courses that strengthen your soft skills. We offer a range of online short courses, which cover contemporary topics within Applied Psychology, Business Management, Coaching and People Management.
Our range of short courses have been designed for working professionals that want to upskill online in their own time. Courses are hosted on a social learning platform where learners can engage and actively acquire new skills and knowledge. For more information about our specialised short courses visit our website or contact our team.