Martin Probst analyses the difference between Task Skills (Hard) and Employability Skills (Soft)
In a recent Harris poll (on behalf of CareerBuilder) an overwhelming majority of companies (77 per cent) said soft skills were just as important as hard skills. Despite this fact, soft skills are generally undervalued in Australia and are ripped out of training packages where they are needed most. The problem with the way standards and training packages are written today is that the “authors” have forgotten that there are Task Skills (Hard) and Employability Skills (Soft). Unfortunately, only the former is paid attention to when developing standards.
By labelling essential skills such as work ethic, positive attitude, critical thinking, self-motivation, team building, working well under pressure, time management, effective communication across cultures and situations, confidence, flexibility and self-esteem as soft, we are creating a skills caste system that, whether we like it or not, lessens their value. Why are these above mentioned skills considered as soft? Perhaps the soft skills are in fact the hardest to master and the most beneficial.
These skills should be labeled universal to complement industry-specific skills and must be given equal importance as they are the glue that holds the technical processes together.
I appreciate that highly technical employees feel frustrated when they discover that in order to become a true leader, building relationships and master communication skills are more important than hard skills. Technical skills may get you the job, but soft skills will make or break you as a leader.
Your Brand Image
As a company and even as an individual employee you need to be aware of your brand image. To get a clear indicator of your current brand image, ask yourself and others for what you are known for. Then compare it with what you want to be known for. Your personal brand is what differentiates you from others.
Improve your soft/universal skills
Too many employees and companies do not understand the importance of soft skills until it is too late. Whether you are an individual wanting to leapfrog your career or a business striving to increase your bottom-line, you have to invest into soft/universal skills. You will see managers and employees who:
• Are assets, not liabilities
• Make quicker, smarter decisions
• Are more goal focused and productive
• Are excellent team players and communicators
• Can be promoted internally, rather than losing them to the competition
• Will assist you to increase your bottom-line
So, the conclusion of the ultimate debate in my view? There is no debate at all! To succeed in the business world, we need both hard and soft/universal/skills. There is no doubt about it.
The writer is the Managing Director of PROfound Coaching, and provides expert advice on Career Coaching, Professional Mentoring and Team Building. He is also the author of The 5 Steps to Leapfrogging Your Career
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Melbourne)