Soft Skills In the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 1, 2021

Soft skills are important skills to possess regardless of where you are in your professional career. Soft skills give you a solid base to establish yourself as an exemplary employee, colleague, manager or boss. In this article, we provide a guide to the variety of soft skills found in the workplace.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are skills related to communication, personality traits, social cues and more. Qualities like empathy and listening skills fall under this category. 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 will be at understanding people.

Accordingly, employers prioritize soft skills as much as hard skills in their employees. In one way or another, employees must interact with each other, and the more soft skills that are present, the easier it will be to create a harmonious work environment. For example, you may be a great engineer, but if you cannot communicate effectively with the rest of the team, then problems are likely to arise.

Employers also favor soft skills because they are transferable skills. This means that as an employee, you will be better at adapting to change. For example, a cashier with excellent people skills will adapt far more quickly when given the role of floor manager than one who lacks empathy and great communication skills.

Hard skills are important to do your job well, but with excellent soft skills, you are bringing positive and productive traits to your work environment.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

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

  2. Adaptability skills

  3. Team player skills

  4. Detail-oriented skills

  5. Problem-solving skills

  6. Work-ethic skills

  7. Creativity skills

  8. Time-management skills

  9. Interpersonal skills

  10. Leadership skills

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

Related: 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

2. Adaptability skills

Being adaptable and flexible is an important soft skill. Employers want to see their team being open 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

Related: 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 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

  • Imagination

  • Divergent thinking

  • Questioning

  • Insightfulness

  • Mind mapping

8. Time-management skills

This soft skill will 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

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

10. Leadership skills

Leadership skills give you the ability to lead 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

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:

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

1. Identify them

First, identify where your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to soft skills. To do this, you should:

  • Become self-aware so you can detect the area or areas where you are lacking.

  • Go through the former soft skills examples and make a list of the ones you practice and the ones you don't really use.

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

2. 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.

3. Hire a coach

A great life coach can help you work on your soft skills for effective results. Before hiring a coach, consider the following:

  • You should connect with your coach.

  • Your coach should also have a coach, as it's important that coaches are also working on themselves.

  • Your coach should be qualified and professional.

After this self-evaluation, it's time to get 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.

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 in an effective manner 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 are 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 to excel 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 making 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 be a more focused employee.

How to highlight soft skills

Soft skills are more difficult to see than hard skills, so it is 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 are also mentioned in the job description. Make sure you bring up any of your skill qualifications to the employer, as well as a few more skills you think will help you excel in the position.

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

1. Soft skills for your resume

You can list your soft skills in either your summary paragraph or in your 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%.”

2. 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.”

3. Soft skills for the job interview

In the case of a job interview, you should mention soft skills whenever you have the opportunity. There is no need to wait for the interviewer to ask you directly about your soft skills.

Example: If you are asked about the day-to-day management of the factory you worked in as a factory engineer, you can add a number of soft skills. “My day-to-day at Key Inc. involved managing a team of technicians who were responsible for keeping the factory line moving and keeping production on schedule. I would also schedule shifts for the technicians and create maintenance schedules for weekly, biweekly and monthly tasks.”

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