Soft skills are a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes and EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) amongst others. The Collins English Dictionary defines the term “soft skills” as “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.”
Soft skills are a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one’s relationships in a social milieu with other people. These skills can include social graces, communication abilities,language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits. National Business Education Association deems soft skills as critical for being industrious in today’s workplace. Soft Skills complements hard skills for productive workplace performance and everyday life competencies (Arkansas Department of Education, 2007). Hard skills also known as technical skills, were the only skills necessary for career employment and were generally quantifiable and measurable from educational background, work experience or through interview. In twentieth century soft skills are a major differentiator and sine qua non for employability. A study conducted by Harvard University noted that 80% achievements in career are determined by soft skills and only 20% by hard skills. Experts say soft skills training should begin for a person when they are students, to perform efficiently in their academic environment as well as in their future workplace.
Enumeration and categorization
A person’s soft skill is an important part of their individual contribution to the success of an organization. Organizations which deal with customers face-to-face are generally more successful if they promote activities for staffs to develop these skills through wellness enhancing programs. Training or rewarding for personal habits or traits such as dependability and conscientiousness can yield significant return on investment for an organization. For this reason, soft skills are increasingly sought out by employers in addition to standard qualifications. Studies by Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation among Fortune 500 CEOs established that 75% of long term job success resulted from soft skills and only 25% from technical skills (Sinha, 2008). Hence, soft skills are as important as cognitive/technical skills (John, 2009; Zehr, 1998).
Ten soft skill attributes most important for business executives
Following is a list of soft skills compiled by Eastern Kentucky University from executive listings:
- Communication – oral, speaking capability, written, presenting, listening.
- Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful.
- Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable.
- Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values, does what’s right.
- Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humor, friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
- Positive attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
- Professionalism – businesslike, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
- Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, conscientious, common sense.
- Teamwork – cooperative, gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful,collaborative.
- Work ethic – hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.