Education Week recently surveyed executives at several leading companies to see "what they want and expect" from the next generation of employees. Respondents from corporations like Microsoft, Apple, General Motors, and Cigna overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of soft skills, especially when dealing with a continually changing world.
VirtualJobShadow.com understands the importance of soft skills, offering hundreds of Life Skills Videos on our platform. For our 2021 list of top soft skills, we've focused heavily on social-emotional skills, which are especially helpful for dealing with changes, stressors, and pressure in healthy, productive ways.
1) Empathy- Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Individuals with a strong sense of empathy are better managers and stronger leaders, yet only 40% of frontline leaders are proficient or strong in empathy. Experts predict empathy will grow even more important as our workplaces become automated. Technology can do a lot, but it can’t empathize with customers or coworkers.
2) Growth Mindset- People who subscribe to a "fixed mindset" believe character, intelligence, and skills are inherent. Conversely, those with a growth mindset believe they can develop skills through hard work, strategizing, studying, and input from others. For example, someone with a growth mindset might look at the failure to meet a quarterly goal as an opportunity to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and learn from this setback. Companies that embrace a growth mindset find their employees are more empowered, committed, innovative, and collaborative.
3) Flexibility- Being flexible means learning new skills in response to changing circumstances, moving on from behaviors and procedures that don't work, and the ability to deal with ambiguity. Flexible employees can easily reprioritize and regroup quickly when setbacks occur. Flexible people take control instead of just letting things happen.
4) Self-Awareness- Self-awareness is identifying how your emotions, feelings, motives, and needs work. Do you get easily frustrated when no one listens to you? Do you not take constructive criticism from people you find irritating? Are you unable to separate the personal from the professional? Those with self-awareness can critique themselves and use it to tailor their behavior accordingly. Self-aware individuals also understand others better, which allows them to lead more effectively.
5) Emotional Intelligence (EQ)- Emotional intelligence (EQ) is closely related to self-awareness. While self-awareness is being cognizant of the ways you think and act, emotional intelligence is the capacity to manage those feelings pragmatically. EQ makes individuals better collaborators, more empathetic, and improves relationships and communication skills.
6) Active Listening- Active listening means being present in your conversations, listening with undivided attention, and asking meaningful questions based on what the other party says. Research shows that speakers volunteered less information when talking with inattentive listeners and gave more information, relevant details, and elaboration to active listeners, even when listeners didn't ask questions.
7) Hope- Hopeful people can imagine a better reality than their current situation. Hope allows people to be more flexible when plans deviate and overcome hurdles with aplomb. Hopeful individuals can identify and work towards achievable goals.
8) Humility- Author C.S. Lewis said, "humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less." Humble individuals credit others for their work and celebrate the successes of others. They acknowledge their limitations, admit their mistakes, and are comfortable saying what they don't know. Managers who practice humility see better employee engagement and job performance from those they oversee.
9) Leadership- Leadership isn't just a trait for managers, bosses, and CEOs. Anyone can and should be a leader—if you've ever helped others through a challenge or reach a specific goal, you've shown leadership qualities. Good leaders demonstrate confidence, accountability, solid communication skills, and strong decision-making abilities—traits that benefit everyone.
10) Storytelling- Storytelling is the process of using narratives to communicate with an audience. Stories help solidify concepts and simplify complicated messages. They entertain, keep an audience engaged, teach us things, and are a powerful, persuasive tool to encourage people to see situations from your perspective. As more work becomes remote, more communication becomes digital, and social media becomes even more prominent, storytelling will become even more valuable.