How To Improve Your Soft Skills (Plus Their Importance)

Updated June 9, 2023

Three people walk down a hallway. One speaks, holds a table and wears a stethoscope. The other two wear lanyards with identification and listen to the speaker. All three wear casual business attire.

Managers hire individuals for their teams based on their experience and how they present themselves during the interview process. They may strive to build a well-rounded team of people who will support the success of their department and the entire company. Both hard and soft skills are important to consider when making hiring determinations and deciding who earns leadership roles and promotions. 

In this article, we discuss what soft skills are, provide steps for how you can improve yours and describe their importance.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the skills you possess that go beyond your technical, measurable abilities. Soft skills focus more on your social, leadership, communication and problem-solving skills, among others. While hard skills are the training and knowledge you've grown during your career, soft skills are how you work with others and on your own. Although soft skills are more personality-based, you can still improve them.

Read more: Soft Skills: Definitions and Top Examples

How to improve your soft skills

There are many benefits to improving your soft skills, including relationship-building with colleagues and career development. Here are 11 steps to improve your soft skills:

1. Be open to feedback

A large part of improving your soft skills is being open to feedback you may receive from supervisors, managers and even colleagues. When you're open to feedback, you can be better able to receive constructive criticism and use that information to improve in your workplace role, including your soft skills. You may receive feedback on your communication skills, ability to work in a group, time management, leadership potential and more. As you're receiving feedback, consider thanking the individual who's providing it and developing a plan, either with yourself or through speaking with a manager, to improve and learn.

Read more: Positive Feedback: Why It's Important and How To Deliver It

2. Communicate often

Effective communication is a soft skill that benefits everyone in the workplace. Although you may have tasks and responsibilities that don't require the help of anyone else in your office, take the opportunities you have for forming relationships with those around you. Communicate often to develop this soft skill. This includes communication face-to-face, through email and in presentations to a group. Since nearly every method of communication differs from another, it's important to communicate through various means so your communication soft skills are more well-rounded.

When you communicate, think about how you're addressing others, how clear your message is and your tone of voice. You may also notice how others communicate and take tips and techniques from them to find a communication style that works for you.

Related: 10 Benefits of Effective Communication in the Workplace

3. Emphasize teamwork

When you engage in good teamwork, you show your employer that you're great at collaborating with others. Teamwork could occur in a group setting for a presentation or one-on-one with another colleague to complete a shared task. During a shared task or daily responsibility, allow each member of the group to contribute their share and celebrate the unique skills and personalities of the group. When you emphasize teamwork, you open yourself up to learning opportunities from your colleagues while improving your own skills.

Read more: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player

4. Build positive relationships

A lot of the soft skills you use in the workplace rely on the relationship you have with other employees and managers. You can build positive relationships with your colleagues by engaging in a genuine conversation about their weekend plans, family, hobbies and interests. Try to connect with them over a shared experience. If you work in a department with multiple people, consider asking everyone if they want to go out for a group lunch on Friday.

Stepping away from the office is a nice way to connect with them on a personal level. This may assist you professionally because you know their personality a bit more and understand how it factors into their work ethic.

Related: Professional Relationships: Types and Tips

5. Get outside of your comfort zone

As with anything you want to improve, it's important to step outside of your comfort zone and take on something new. This may be a new setting, new responsibilities or a leadership role. You can even offer to be the one in your group who gives the project presentation as a way for you to improve your public speaking skills. Placing yourself in unfamiliar territory professionally has the potential to showcase to your manager how seriously you take your job and allow you to learn something completely new.

Read more: 8 Tips for Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone (With Examples)

6. Get ready to learn

As you go through your process of improving any soft skill, you may encounter setbacks, but you may encounter many successes, too. What's important is that you learn from them. For example, if you're in charge of a project and are working on your leadership and collaboration soft skills, consider taking time after the project is complete (or even in phases during it) to gather feedback on your leadership and how the project could improve next time. The people you work with are best able to evaluate how the project went and offer their feedback based on prior experiences.

Related: What Is Professional Development? Definition and Examples

7. Adapt to workplace changes

It's common for a workplace to go through fluctuations in anything from the office staff to workplace procedures, and one way to improve your soft skills is to be adaptable. Adaptability is also an important soft skill to have so you can come up with alternative solutions to any workplace issues that may arise. Be open to learning new technologies when they're released and assist with training newcomers to the organization.

Read more: 6 Important Workplace Adaptability Skills (With Examples)

8. Observe others

One of the strongest ways you can improve your soft skills is by observing others around you. This can mean paying attention to managers, colleagues and employees from other departments. Observe the way they complete a task, including how they interact with others and their individual process, which may involve many soft skills. It's important to be open to learning from others, as everyone comes to the workplace with their own set of hard and soft skills.

Related: How To Improve Your Observation Skills in 9 Steps

9. Work through conflict

It's not uncommon for there to be a conflict in the workplace, but how you work through it matters. When conflict arises, think of alternate ways to resolve it so you can continue your relationship with colleagues, learn from each other and continue to be productive as teammates. All members of the organization benefit from a collaborative work environment, and you can display your abilities as a team player and your capabilities as a leader.

Read more: 5 Effective Strategies and Steps for Conflict Resolution

10. Take on a leadership role

To improve your leadership soft skills, consider taking on an actual leadership role in the workplace. Start by speaking with your manager or supervisor about your interests, and determine if there are any opportunities to lead a project or group or even be a mentor to someone else in the workplace who has less experience. In this role, think of how you can inspire your group to do their best. Ask for your manager to consider you as an interim supervisor in the event they're out of the office for a meeting or planned vacation.

It's also possible to be a leader in building a new process, so if you have ideas on how to improve your office, think about sharing them with your manager and ask for the responsibility of working out the logistics and leading training.

Related: Traits, Skills and Qualities of Effective Leadership

11. Arrive at work on time

Time management is a solid soft skill to have in the workplace, and a great way to improve is by arriving to work on time. Adhering to a schedule can give you the ability to meet goals, finish work on time and stay organized, which are all skills that lead to more productivity and can help you stand out from your peers.

Read more: 6 Time Management Training Methods

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
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The importance of soft skills in the workplace

Soft skills are exceptional to have in any organization, and the benefits are many, including:

Increased employee relations

When you work on your soft skills and continue to develop them, your relationships with your colleagues may improve. This benefits any workplace collaboration. This can also be helpful when you search for new positions within your current organization.

Decreased company cost

More developed soft skills in the workplace can decrease a company's cost of doing business because of increased efficiency. When employees develop soft skills, customers may have a better experience and members of the sales team might improve their numbers and gain more work from existing clients. This is because they can communicate more effectively and more compassionately with the clients.

Less training needed

You can develop most soft skills at your own pace by putting yourself in situations that test them. Therefore, the organization may not train individuals to improve their soft skills. Instead, managers may direct you in ways you can improve and allow you the opportunity to figure out what works best for you.

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