Soft Skills in the Workplace: Examples and How To Develop

Updated February 3, 2023

Professionals across a range of jobs, industries and career levels might benefit from developing and showcasing their soft skills. Soft skills can help professionals improve their interactions with colleagues, better adapt to change and proactively respond to various situations. Knowing more about the strategies you can use to hone or highlight your soft skills may help you achieve an array of tasks or accomplishments in your career, whether that's becoming a more dependable colleague or advancing your career.

In this article, we explain how soft skills in the workplace matter, review some examples of these abilities and offer tips on how you can develop or showcase your soft skills in professional environments.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are proficiencies related to communication, personality traits, social cues and behavioral habits. Soft skills indicate how a person relates and works with others. While a person can learn hard skills like HTML code, soft skills are more innate. Much like emotions or a keen perception, soft skills are qualities a person already has, and the more fine-tuned these skills are, the better the person holding these traits might be at understanding people. Hard skills are important to do your job well, but with excellent soft skills, you are bringing positive traits to your work environment.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What's the Difference?

Why do soft skills in the workplace matter?

Employers typically prioritize soft skills as much as hard skills in their employees. The more soft skills that are present, the easier it can be to create a harmonious work environment. For example, you may be a great engineer, but communication skills can help you more effectively collaborate with others. Employers also favor soft skills because they are transferable skills. This means that, as an employee, you may be better at adapting to change. For example, a cashier with excellent people skills might adapt far more quickly when given the role of floor manager.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Top Examples

10 examples of soft skills

While they may not be as evident as hard skills, soft skills are important and come in a variety of forms. The following are common soft skills employers look for:

1. Communication skills

Communication is a key skill for employees as it ensures effective teamwork, creates a more positive environment and helps to solve issues. In some jobs, communication plays a huge role, such as in human resources, management and sales. Examples of communication skills include:

  • Listening

  • Written

  • Empathy

  • Giving constructive feedback

  • Self-confidence

  • Respect

  • Nonverbal communication, such as tone of voice, gestures, body language and facial expressions

Read more: Top 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

2. Adaptability skills

Being flexible is an important soft skill. Employers typically want to see their team being open-minded and embracing change. This is especially important in a busy work environment where things change quickly. Examples of adaptability skills include:

  • Self-organization

  • Self-motivation

  • Self-management

  • Curiosity

  • Positivity

  • Calmness in stressful situations

  • Quick decision-making

  • Open-mindedness

3. Team player skills

Employers want to see their employees excel at teamwork to create a better operating work environment. There are jobs where teamwork is vital to success, such as brand management, marketing, catering and architecture. Examples of team player skills include:

  • Delegation

  • Negotiation

  • Mediation

  • Listening

  • Coordination

  • Conflict management

  • Cooperation

  • Collaboration

4. Detail-oriented skills

Being accurate and a perfectionist in your work is also key for employers. While these skills are always important, some roles may benefit from these skills more, such as roles in finance, medicine and architecture. Examples of detail-oriented skills include:

  • Analysis

  • Questioning

  • Introspection

  • Critical thinking and observation

  • Memory

  • Self-organization

  • Perception

5. Problem-solving skills

Finding effective solutions for work-related problems is a huge asset, as employers want to see you solving issues and keeping the organization moving forward. Some roles require problem-solving skills more than others, such as those related to law, medicine and engineering. Examples of problem-solving skills include:

  • Perception

  • Persistence

  • Decision-making

  • Analysis

  • Lateral thinking

  • Initiative

  • Negotiation

  • Brainstorming

Read more: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

6. Work ethic skills

Possessing a great work ethic is another soft skill that is valued by employers. Roles that thrive on a good work ethic include entrepreneurs and teachers. Examples of work ethic skills include:

  • Discipline

  • Integrity

  • Dependability

  • Commitment

  • Professionalism

  • Initiative

  • Time-management

  • Self-motivation

7. Creativity skills

Creativity comes in different forms, but the end result in a professional environment is usually an innovative solution for the organization. Roles that require a great deal of creativity include writers, designers and stylists. Examples of creativity skills include:

  • Inspiration

  • Innovative ideas

  • Reframing ideas

  • Imagination

  • Divergent thinking

  • Questioning

  • Insightfulness

  • Mind mapping

Read more: Creativity Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

8. Time-management skills

This soft skill might show employers your ability to be productive in the time you have. Some roles thrive on this skill, such as writing jobs and legal jobs because they usually involve several deadlines. Examples of time-management skills include:

  • Prioritization

  • Planning

  • Organization

  • Setting goals

  • Stress management

  • Delegation

  • Decision making

  • Focus

  • Self-starting

  • Coping

9. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the skills you use to interact with the people around you, including your colleagues and employers. These skills are important in all roles, but especially in jobs where you work closely with other people constantly, such as in sales or customer service. Examples of interpersonal skills include:

  • Empathy

  • Diplomacy

  • Sensitivity

  • Public speaking

  • Tolerance

  • Mentoring

  • Sense of humor

  • Networking

  • Patience

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

10. Leadership skills

Leadership skills give you the ability to guide others well to reach the goals of the organization. Some roles where this skill is of greater importance are those in management, business and teaching. Examples of leadership skills include:

  • Humility

  • Empathy

  • Versatility

  • Trust

  • Discipline

  • Active listening

  • Authenticity

Read more: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to improve soft skills

Soft skills are innate qualities that you develop over time, but you can improve your soft skills to become both a better colleague and employee. Follow these steps to improve your soft skills:

Identify them

First, identify your strengths and weaknesses related to soft skills. To do this, you can use a few strategies, including:

  • Understand your strengths. Become self-aware so you can detect the area or areas where you're lacking.

  • Review a list of soft skills. Go through the former soft skills examples and make a list of the ones you practice and the ones you could use more.

  • Get another opinion. Ask a trusted friend, family member or former employer to tell you about the soft skills they see in you.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

Ask for feedback

Once you have a list of soft skills that you want to improve on, you can start practicing them in your day-to-day life. Consider asking for feedback from colleagues or your manager. If they do share feedback, listen without being defensive and be open to their suggestions.

Hire a coach

A great life coach can help you work on your soft skills for effective results. Searching for the following qualities in a coach may help you find one that suits you:

  • Emotional connection: Coaching relationships are typically better when you and your coach can relate to each other.

  • Qualifications: A good coach typically possesses relevant experiences or certifications. They also behave in a professional manner. Your coach should also have a coach, as it's important that coaches are also working on themselves.

  • Skills: Coaches usually have an understanding of all varieties of soft skills and how different individuals can develop them.

After this self-evaluation, consider seeking someone you trust to help you improve your soft skills by practicing them. Ask your coach to give you constructive feedback so you can improve with time and practice.

Related: How a Life Coach Can Help Your Career

Pursue developmental opportunities

Search for opportunities in your local area or online that relate to the soft skills you want to develop. For example, you might look for a workshop about leadership or a convention about creativity skills. Looking for these types of additional resources can give you an opportunity to practice your soft skills in unique environments or think about new ways to hone these soft skills. Developmental opportunities that might help you develop soft skills include:

  • Enrolling in a class or workshop

  • Teaching yourself, such as through books, podcasts or videos

  • Attending a conference

  • Joining a professional association

  • Going to networking events, whether at the company you work for or within your wider community or industry

Related: 5 Areas of Personal Growth (Plus Tips for Development)

Soft skills in the workplace

Other soft skills found in the workplace include:

  • Conflict resolution: The ability to resolve issues with others in a respectful and effective manner

  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to manage and control your emotions to express them in the right way

  • Storytelling: The ability to captivate your clients or colleagues in a way that leads them to take action

  • Presentation: The ability to present a plan effectively that leads to action

  • Positive reinforcement: The ability to alleviate self-doubt in others and increase their self-worth

  • Remote team management: The ability to manage a team effectively, even when you're away from the work environment

  • Talent management: The ability to hire, retain and develop the best team possible for the job

  • Meeting management: The ability to organize and use meetings effectively to avoid wasting time

  • Business ethics: The ability to deal honestly with everyone in the organization, including clients

  • Competitiveness: The ability to continually improve at what you do

  • Dependability: The ability to get people to rely on you when you respect deadlines

  • Results-oriented: The ability to identify what results you want to achieve and make plans to achieve them

  • Task tracking: The ability to keep track of your tasks and of those you are managing

  • Work-life balance: The ability to have other things in life besides work so you can improve your focus while on the job

How to Improve Your Soft Skills in the Workplace

How to highlight soft skills

Soft skills can be more difficult to see than hard skills, so it's important to tell an employer the soft skills you can bring to the job when writing your cover letter, in your resume and during the job interview. First, make a list of your soft skills. Then, see which of these soft skills the job description also mentions. Make sure you emphasize any of your skill qualifications to the employer, along with a few more skills you think might help you excel in the position.

The following are ways you can highlight your list of soft skills:

Soft skills for your resume

You can list your soft skills in either your summary paragraph or in the achievements section of your resume. Use numbers to describe your soft skills achievements, just as you would for hard skills.

Example: “Created an innovative mentorship program to support 17 new mothers in the workplace, enhanced the company culture and lowered turnover by 25%.”

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume (With Examples)

Soft skills for your cover letter

For your cover letter, pick your three strongest soft skills and use one to two stories from previous positions to highlight your skills.

Example: “As the lead writer for the marketing department, I not only came up with creative and compelling text for the brand but also managed a team of five junior writers to develop copy for the organization by conducting brainstorming sessions, encouraging imagination and creating a safe environment for the writers to experiment in their work.”

Soft skills for the job interview

In the case of a job interview, mention soft skills whenever you have the opportunity. Although an interviewer may not ask you directly about soft skills, you can often mention them when responding to other questions.

Example: “My day-to-day tasks at Key Inc. involved managing a team of technicians who were responsible for keeping the factory line moving and helping production stay on schedule. I would also schedule shifts for the technicians and create maintenance schedules for weekly, biweekly and monthly tasks.”

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