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Change Management

Dear Santa, All I Want for Christmas are a Few Soft Skills

Dear Santa, All I Want for Christmas are a Few Soft Skills
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Does anyone else have the reoccurring nightmare that one morning you walk into your office, and a robot is sitting at your desk and drinking coffee from a mug with your name on it? (Asking for a friend.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely experienced the dramatic digital transformation of the workplace in recent years. Physical and manual skills are being replaced with automated processes, and companies are actively redesigning jobs around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. An estimated 800 million global workers could lose their jobs to robots by 2030, according to a McKinsey Institute study.


It's the kind of proactive adulting that makes you long for simpler days — especially this time of year. Remember when you could give your Christmas list to Santa and telepathically will him to deliver the exact color, make, and model of what you needed? Ah, to have Santa drop a bag of new skills down the chimney this year (along with a new lightsaber and thermal detonator to take out the robots, of course).

New technology brings new opportunity 

Don’t panic just yet because history proves that where there’s great progress, there’s also great opportunity.

Experts agree, while AI and robotics will absorb a majority of manual, repetitive jobs (mainly in manufacturing), automation could, in turn, move displaced workers to better, more enjoyable positions. Also, as robots improve efficiency, it will increase revenues, which will fuel growth and create the need for more human jobs. 

Those new jobs will require human, cognitive skills — or soft skills — an area in which robots can’t compete. 

Why soft skills matter to employers

You can gain hard skills through education and training (or in the case of a robot, programming). Hard skills are definable and measurable and include learned skills such as cloud computing, database engineering, accounting, or copywriting.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are the interpersonal, people skills every person possesses in varying degrees. They include communication skills, listening skills, and empathy skills and are not as easily quantifiable. Soft skills are a fusion of logic, emotion, attitude, and character. They allow individuals to process a situation or assess “the big picture.” Soft skills determine an individual’s ability (or inability) to think critically, adapt to change, resolve conflict, navigate an environment, and collaborate with others.

Skills combo with a side of change

To be clear: Hard skills matter more than ever. However, human resource professionals agree, that while a person's hard skills may be exceptional, it’s often his or her soft skills that will determine getting hired, or when lacking, getting fired.

Soft skills impact a company's culture, turnover, and customer relationships, all of which differentiate a company and influence its ability to compete. Soft skills will take longer to develop or improve than hard skills, which is where that handy dandy grown-up Christmas list comes in. 

If you lack soft skills for your current job or the one you aspire to, now is the time to make that list and get to work. Where are your soft skills gaps? You may know instantly what you need to improve, or you need to seek out some candid feedback from a manager, instructor, or colleague. Here’s an exhaustive list of soft skills to get you thinking. shutterstock_1016367724

5 soft skills you need for 2020

According to Udemy’s 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report, here are the 5 top soft-skills people will need to step into and thrive in a digitally-driven workplace. 

1. Growth mindset. A growth mindset means you can learn continuously and are eager to adapt to change. If you’ve gotten a little stuck in your ways over time, developing a growth mindset will take consistent, intentional effort. Focus on being flexible, seeking out contrasting perspectives, and welcoming challenges. If you feel uncomfortable with this mind-shifting process, you’re likely on the right track. Author Brene Brown’s encouragement in this area is to “Be a learner, not a knower.” 

2. Creativity. This soft skill requires you to be nimble, to develop new ideas, and apply new solutions to solve existing problems. Growing creativity is as much a personal commitment as a cultural one. Creativity will thrive in an environment that encourages risk, celebrates diverse perspectives, and makes it okay to fail along the way. Need some inspiration on growing your creativity? Start with these TED talks

3. Focus. Our obsession with technology has, unfortunately, diminished our collective attention span. The ability to focus affects time management, decision making, goal setting, and outcomes. A good rule: Do the worst thing, first thing. Studies show that distraction and procrastination siphon valuable energy and emotions. Physical things you can do to improve focus include work-life balance, exercise, adequate sleep, and keeping your mind in shape with complex solving. To jumpstart this effort, consider using a combination of appsbooks, and online classes. 

4. Innovation. Your ability to imagine and translate an idea into a monetized good or service is called innovation, and it’s one of the hottest topics in business today with companies like Amazon and Apple leading the charge in real-time. To build an innovation mindset, chose to work with innovative people and teams. Become an insatiable learner: Read, keep up with trends, ask great questions, listen, seek collaboration, and carefully curate content. To build your understanding of this soft skill, start with Braineet’s helpful list of innovation blogs.

5. Communication. Human resource professionals cite communication as the soft skill most often missing from prospective job candidates today. To build up this critical skill, make this simple commitment: Listen more, talk less. Observe body language, make eye contact, and be present in every exchange to gain critical context and understanding. Slow down when reading and writing emails or texts to be sure you have a) understood the other person b) expressed yourself as clearly as possible. Communication resources are endless and include online courses, TED Talks, books. You may even consider joining a group like Toastmasters sharpen your skills.

In addition to these five soft skills, Udemy names storytelling, culture awareness, critical thinking, leadership, and emotional intelligence as essential soft skills for 2010. Here’s the good news: Thanks to the digital resources around us, you have everything you need to bridge any skills gap you may have. 

Here's hoping your New Year overflows with opportunity, creativity, and an unstoppable growth mindset.

Have a safe, peace-filled, happy holiday from everyone at Improv! We're looking forward to working with you in 2020!

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