Hard Skills and Soft Skills

January 16, 2024

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Hard Skills and Soft Skills

Image Credit: Depositphotos

In the workplace, there has always been a need for hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills

Hard skills in the realms of technology and business, especially, have been in high demand for several decades now. In more recent years, the demand for hard skills of the trades has risen in relevance, as populations have grown, along with the need for construction and related skills.

Soft Skills

Soft skills often get less attention, with leaders assuming their employees innately know how to lead, manage, communicate, and work well with the people in the organization.

But here’s the thing: When there are issues in the workplace, they are most often related to soft skills. Hard skills are usually assessed well in a good hiring process. They are repeatable and predictable skills, with opportunities to add on learning and experience.

But soft skills –the ability to work with people and manage oneself – those can be a challenge for anyone at any time because the “people” dynamic is always changing.

Soft skills require development of basic understanding and principles, practiced application, and the agility to adapt well to fluid interactions. Hard skills can be measurable with regard to output and results. Soft skills are measured more by input, essentially by the value you invest in yourself and others.

While hard skills still have a solid place in the workplace, many are concerned with the speed at which AI is displacing the need for humans in some of these skill sets.

This is where soft skills come into play.

At least for the near future, humans have the edge in this arena.

Soft skills include the following:

  • Relationship building
  • Trust
  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict management
  • Teamwork
  • Strong work ethic
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Ethics

If you ask leaders what their greatest challenges are, they will often identify things such as:

  • “I can’t get anyone to show up for work on time and work hard.”
  • “My team can’t get along. There is constant drama.”
  • “The team doesn’t trust their manager.”
  • “We’re lacking innovation, which is affecting our ability to compete in a tight marketplace.”
  • “I have a very talented, smart team. But they just don’t seem to care.”

What can leaders do to help their teams develop soft skills?

There are some very important and necessary steps leaders can take to improve this very important area of business.

First and foremost, leaders must practice these skills themselves.

As a leader, you need to show up on time and be enthusiastic about the work. You need to communicate will with your team and set a standard across the organization for open and honest communication. You need to ensure that your actions are in alignment with your mission, vision, and values. You set the example.

Secondly, it is a good idea to have each team member take a Maxwell DISC assessment.

This helps each individual understand themselves and how they can best work within a team, and it helps their team members know how best to communicate with them. It helps everyone know what type of environment supports their best work. And it helps each team member learn their strengths and the value they can bring to the rest of the team.

Thirdly, as leaders and team members begin to practice these skills, they need to establish an open forum for communication.

In this respect, differing thoughts and opinions are valued and respected. The leader negotiates win-win situations. And the team learns to work together to accomplish the mission of the organization.

A company built on a solid, dynamic hard skill set and a broad soft skill set is a strong company, indeed. In an era of challenge and change, these two skill sets provide a solid foundation for success.


Action Steps

    1. As a leader, rate your level of the soft skills listed on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest. Where are you strongest? What areas do you need to address?
    2. Are your actions in alignment with your mission, vision, and values?
    3. Administer strengths assessments to your team and meet with them to review results.
    4. What current challenges do you and your team face in the areas of soft skills?
    5. Explore ways you, as a team, can improve in the areas of soft skills.

Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!