When I interview someone and ask, “what would you say the secret to your success is?” The most common answer is the people. When I ask someone, “what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?” The most common answer is the people. Our success and failure in service, while spurred by strategy and enabled by technology, lies with our people.
As such, many leaders are focusing more on soft skills than ever before. But what if soft skills is the wrong focus? A friend sent me this video last week and I loved Simon Sinek’s point: “There’s no such thing as ‘soft skills.’ There is nothing soft about them. Let’s call them what they really are — human skills.” This struck a chord with me, because it made me think about the disservice we may be doing in thinking about and communicating about these skills as “soft” skills. I love Simon’s urge to call them human skills instead.
The focus on these human skills is more important than ever, and if referring to them as human versus soft will help in making strides, then it’s worth the effort to change the term. There are some factors at play that are emphasizing the importance on ensuring that your workforce is equipped with more than the technical knowledge to do their jobs. First, in service the frontline role is rapidly evolving. As more and more organizations embrace outcomes-based service, as-a-Service models, and Servitization, the role of the frontline worker is far more than a fix – they are demanded to become trusted advisors to those customers. They need to feel comfortable making suggestions, offering expanded services, and adeptly uncovering additional customer needs to evolve service offerings.
Moreover, the workforce is changing. Younger and more diverse workers are entering, technology is automating some tasks to allow more time for value-added work, there’s an emphasis on knowledge capture and transfer, and Covid has drastically increased remote work. From the frontline to middle management to top leadership, there’s ample need for an increase in human skills that help employees at all levels communicate effectively and work toward common goals.
Innovation also increases the need for the focus on human skills. Alignment toward strategic initiatives demands the breakdown of siloes, a more agile way of work, and the input of all areas of the company to be effective. Companies who are prioritizing human skills and a culture of open, honest communication at all layers of the organization have greater chances of success in accomplishing transformation and innovation at the pace necessary today.
3 Human Skills Every Worker Needs to Master
As I said, many companies are playing more emphasis on soft – or human – skills than ever before. But others lag, and it’s important to realize that these skills are absolutely as important to success at work as the technical skills needed for a job. As Sinek points out at the end of the video I linked, a two-day offsite or guest speaker once a year doesn’t “check the box” on your focus on human skills. These skills should be given ample energy and investment, which will be ensured best by measuring them in some way.
There are many human skills that are both important and valuable in successfully navigating both the innerworkings of a company and external customer relationships, but if asked to prioritize a top three here are the skills I’d chose and why:
- This is a given, I suppose – but with good reason. Communication comes more naturally to some, but even for those who communicate effortlessly don’t always to so effectively. Communication is so important both inside and outside the organization and while specific training may vary based on role-specific requirements or areas of need, a focus on clarity, timeliness, honesty, and respectfulness are a must. You must also ensure that you are providing an environment in which your employees feel comfortable communicating and a culture in which they feel heard.
- With all that’s going on in our world, empathy is a critical skill. From being able to put yourself in a customer’s shoe to acknowledging a co-worker who is struggling with something, empathy is an invaluable skill to focus on and is, in many ways, its own superpower. Empathy is also a cornerstone of conflict resolution, which is an important skill to master when dealing with customers.
- This might not make someone else’s top three list, but it makes mine because I think it is rapidly increasing in importance. Gone are the days of companies looking to hire cookie-cutter robots to do a job. Rather, we want employees who have that certain “something” – and so do customers. Further, with innovation a high priority across a variety of industries, creativity is an in-demand skill to help bring new ideas, fresh approaches, and different ways of thinking.
I’m curious – what’s your top three? I’d love to hear! Email me to share.