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 help their department and the entire company succeed. 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 share what soft skills are and how you can improve yours so you can stand out.
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 composed of the training and knowledge you've grown during the course of 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: Definition and Examples
How to improve your soft skills
There are many benefits to improving your soft skills, including relationship building with coworkers and career development. Here are 11 steps to improve your soft skills:
- Be open to feedback.
- Communicate often.
- Emphasize teamwork.
- Build positive relationships.
- Step outside of your comfort zone.
- Get ready to learn.
- Adapt to workplace changes.
- Observe others.
- Work through conflict.
- Take on a leadership role.
- Arrive to work on time.
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 coworkers. 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.
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 to form 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, your body language and your tone of voice. You'll also be able to see how others communicate and take tips and techniques from them to find a communication style that works for you.
3. Emphasize teamwork
When you engage in good teamwork, you show your employer that you are great at collaborating with others. Teamwork could occur in a group setting for a presentation or one-on-one with another coworker 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 different skills and personalities of the group. When you emphasize teamwork, you open yourself up to learning opportunities from your coworkers 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 coworkers by engaging in a genuine conversation about their weekend plans, family, hobbies and interests. Try to find ways to connect with them over a shared experience. If you work in a department with multiple people, consider asking everyone if they would be interested in going out for a group lunch on Friday.
Stepping away from the office is a nice way to be able to connect with them on a personal level. This may assist you professionally because you'll know their personality a bit more and have the ability to understand how it factors into their work ethic.
5. Step 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 allows you to learn something completely new.
6. Get ready to learn
As you go through your process of improving any soft skill, you may encounter setbacks, but you'll likely encounter many successes too. In either case, what's important is that you learn from them.
For example, if you are 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.
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.
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, coworkers 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.
9. Work through conflict
It's not uncommon for there to be conflict in the workplace, but how you work through it is what matters. When conflict arises, think of alternate ways to resolve it so you can continue your relationship with coworkers, 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 capabilities as a leader.
Read more: 5 Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies
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 see 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 are 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 it with your manager and ask for the responsibility of working out the logistics and leading training.
11. Arrive to work on time
Time management is a solid soft skill to have in the workplace, and a great way to improve it 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.
The importance of soft skills in the workplace
Soft skills are great 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 coworkers may improve. This benefits any workplace collaboration.
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 may be able to improve their numbers and gain more work from existing clients.
Less training needed
You can develop most soft skills at your own pace by putting yourself in situations that test them. Therefore, your organization may not need to train individuals to improve their soft skills. Instead, managers may be able to direct you in ways you can improve and allow you the opportunity to figure out what works best for you.