In the debate of soft skills vs. hard, one certainly comes out on the top in these times.
The importance of soft skills has long been debated and has been a long-standing doubt haunting both managers and job aspirants alike. Conventionally it is the hard skills that is way above the soft ones, but it turns out that an increasing body of evidence is challenging this traditional perspective on what really matters for an efficient workforce. Here we concisely list three prestigious studies conducted which shed light on this aspect.
Hit the mark with the perfect soft skills!!
But first, let’s define hard and soft skills in a line: Hard skills are the specific skill set that is required to do the job in question and soft skills are those that have the appearance of being tangential to the task at hand but are still helpful – such as communication abilities or a talent for teamwork and collaboration.
Thus if a cashier at a grocery store, the knowledge of how to use the register and the ability to scan items quickly and efficiently represent the hard skills, whereas the ability to coordinate with co-workers or chat up the customers are considered soft skills.
Now read the following observations drawn from tests conducted at MIT and by Google:
Project Oxygen: This was an internal study conducted by Google in 2013 that reviewed all available data in an attempt to determine which skills are a more accurate prediction of success at the company – hard or soft skills - and are the most valuable. Guess what the result were?
Even at Google, a company built around hard engineering skills like coding and mathematics – STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, expertise finished last among the top eight characteristics of Google’s best employees.
The top seven? You guessed it: all soft skills!! The seven characteristics that won were: Communicating and listening well, being a good coach, possessing insights into others, having empathy toward colleagues, being able to connect with others across complex ideas and being a good critical thinker and problem solver.
Its about not letting the eggs break
These results were further bolstered by another recently conducted study, at Google itself - Project Aristotle. Here once again, the assumption that A-teams stocked with top scientists would produce the best results was proved wrong when data showed that some of the strongest new ideas were coming from B-teams that offered less STEM expertise but stronger soft skills!
The third study we cite is about an year-long effort that was taken by MIT Sloan to teach soft skills to textile workers in Bangalore, an initiative co-authored by Namrata Kala. And guess what? The soft skills training produced a return on investment (ROI) of roughly 250 percent just after one year!!! — a financial return that can hardly be labelled “soft.” This was largely due to improvements in productivity. After the training, the employees produced more in the same amount of time than before it.
Team work, communication and listening are proving to be important than ever
In this example, the data seem to support the idea that hard skills — rather than being independent of soft skills — are actually closely linked to soft skills, with improvements in soft skill development ultimately creating significant gains in hard skills.
Moreover, the gains in productivity in the study were also driven as the workplace became a better place for employees too. Not only were employees producing more, but they saw an increase in their wages and had better opinions of themselves. It was also seen that they were more aware of the advantages of government programs, were eager to save more for their children’s education and tended to request more training in hard skills.
The more people learn about the importance of communication and worker satisfaction the more would be the production of “hard” results. So rather than thinking of hard and soft skills independently of each other, it appears that improving soft skills can lead to a growth in hard skills too.
Managers as well as job seekers, mind it!!