Soft skills, sometimes conflated with emotional intelligence, are incredibly important to any organization working to foster a culture of innovation. Because they can be challenging to define, much less test for, they are the skills most often neglected in the hiring process. Soft skills can’t be automated and will be increasingly in demand as we continue into the 21st Century and the future of work. Any organization with an eye to the future should have an eye on their candidates soft skills.
Soft skills deal with interpersonal communication, team building, empathy, and creativity, therefore they are essential to the success of organizations working to manage growth and nurture a paradigm of problem-solving and innovation. For some people, these skills are second nature, for many others they have been developed for years across a variety of positions and experiences.
Soft skills are applicable to any position in any organization and are an essential part of nurturing adaptable employees who can switch roles, advance into leadership positions, and innovate across departments. Unlike hard skills which may change from job to job, soft skills can deliver ROI for decades.
The 4 most important soft skills for innovation
While soft skills can often be conflated with emotional intelligence, they encompass many more skills and talents that are essential for fostering a culture of innovation and growth. In our experience working with companies developing the future of work, we’ve found the following skills to be among the most important.
Critical thinking. Critical thinking, or the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking, is essential to organizations who hope to thrive into the future as new technologies and processes present challenges we haven’t seen before. For companies on the cutting-edge, critical thinkers can tackle challenges without losing their cool and as such are vital resource to innovation.
Team building. It’s one thing to be a team-player but team-builders possess the skill to bring out the best in others, recognize their co-workers’ strengths, and delegate to those most able to get the job done. Team-builders support creativity, inspire confidence, and know how to communicate effectively and respectfully with their colleagues.
Creativity. Clearly the most amorphous of the soft skills, creativity is as important to an innovative organization as it is hard to define – let alone assess. Creativity is often thought to be the domain of the arts, but it has an important place in problem solving, product design, process improvement, and creating a thriving culture of innovation. Even the busiest organization ought to find time to foster creative thinking in their employees by encouraging participation in brainstorming and offering incentives for employees to take a role in developing new products and initiatives. Other than nurturing creativity in your employees, the next most important step you can take is developing a system for assessing creativity in potential candidates.
Emotional competence. At the most basic level emotional competence means understanding the human consequences behind decisions and interactions and the ability to navigate the complex relationships in any organization. Companies undergoing massive change or growth will especially benefit from employees who can navigate the complexities of workplace relationships. By hiring employees strong in emotional competence, you’ll be abe to create a healthy, productive workplace culture free from the petty politics and immature behaviors that stifle innovation.
There’s a lot more to discuss when it comes to soft skills and a culture of innovation. Join me next week, May 2nd, when I’ll be talking about how we can effectively assess and hire for the invaluable characteristics.
Do you prioritize soft skills in your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below!