In this post, we look at how soft skills have become more important than ever in the modern world of work. We outline the key trends bringing soft skills to the fore, and share how you can address the soft skills gap in your company through corporate language training.
The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years, and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. This poses the question: What does it take to run a successful company in 2023 and beyond? How do you nurture a happy, skilled workforce who are equipped to thrive in the modern workplace?
As we adapt to new ways of working, it’s no longer enough to hire for, and train, hard skills alone. Soft skills are proving critical, and the most successful businesses are prioritizing them in order to remain competitive.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are the interpersonal skills we use to navigate the various situations, challenges, and relationships we encounter on a day-to-day basis. They include things like communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution.
While hard skills are job-specific and enable us to complete particular tasks, soft skills are transferable across different roles and contexts. We’ve written about the differences between hard and soft skills in more detail here.
Soft skills are thought to underpin emotional intelligence — “a type of intelligence that involves the ability to process emotional information and use it in reasoning and other cognitive activities” (as per the APA Dictionary of Psychology). As such, they are crucial to our ability to build positive relationships and, quite simply, to thrive in a collaborative environment.
Soft skills have long been considered an important part of a well-rounded skill set. But recently, they’ve shifted from a secondary “nice to have” to an absolutely critical component of workplace success.
The growing importance of soft skills (and the ever-widening soft skills gap)
A report by Deloitte Access Economics predicts that, by 2030, soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs. The same report notes that the number of soft skill-intensive jobs is expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations.
The World Economic Forum paints a similar picture in their list of the sixteen most important skills and competencies for the 21st century. Ten of the sixteen skills are soft skills, including things like critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, curiosity, and social and cultural awareness.
While it’s evident that soft skills are growing in importance, there remains a stark gap between supply and demand. It’s estimated that the so-called soft skills gap will cost the global economy billions — we’re looking at an annual loss of $250 billion in China alone, $160 billion in the U.S., $29 billion in the UK, and $6 billion in Australia.
Why are soft skills so important in today’s workplace?
There are multiple shifts and trends bringing the importance of soft skills to the fore. With the rise of remote work, digitalization and automation, and continuing globalization, both employers and employees need exceptional social, emotional, and interpersonal skills to navigate — and thrive in — the modern world of work.
Soft skills are critical for navigating remote & hybrid work
With the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a rapid yet long-term shift towards remote and hybrid working models.
Prior to the pandemic, Americans spent just 5% of their time working from home, compared to 60% in Spring 2020. Now, it’s estimated that, by 2025, 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days per month. As for entirely remote work, career site Ladders projects that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, with remote opportunities continuing to increase into 2023.
In many sectors, working from home has become the norm — as has collaborating across different time zones and cultures. This has highlighted the importance of soft skills such as adaptability, empathy, problem-solving, and, of course, exceptional communication.
Without these skills, many teams will have struggled to navigate this new world of work. Now more than ever, soft skills are the glue holding everything together.
Automation, AI, & digital disruption cannot replace soft skills
Research carried out by PwC estimates that 30% of jobs could be at risk of automation by the mid-2030s. And, while automation will vary significantly by sector, this does spark the conversation around what skills will remain relevant.
Again, soft skills come up trumps here. Skills like creativity and empathy make us human — and they make us indispensable, regardless of technological advancements. While routine tasks can be automated, human soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving cannot — and they’re increasingly important for understanding the ever-advancing technology at our disposal and putting it into context.
In a world where hard skills can increasingly be automated, soft skills will not only be a major asset, they will be essential for ensuring that technology works to our advantage.
The Great Resignation places the onus on employees to nurture soft skills
It’s impossible to talk about the current world of work without mentioning the Great Resignation — an ongoing trend which is seeing record numbers of people leave their jobs. This shines the spotlight on employee retention, with business leaders compelled to consider how they can improve the employee experience (EX) and hold on to their best workers.
In fact, a report by Forrester predicts that employee experience will be the most important aspect of an effective HR strategy in 2022 and beyond. Upskilling is a crucial factor in boosting employee loyalty. In fact, a report by LinkedIn found that 94% of employees are more likely to stay with an employer who invests in their learning and development. With soft skills increasingly viewed as critical to job success and career progression, employees will specifically be looking for opportunities to develop such skills in-house.
Soft skills are essential for thriving in the global market
Globalization is nothing new, but it’s another key factor bringing the importance of soft skills to the fore. The before mentioned Deloitte report states:
Although globalization offers businesses access to a broader customer base, it also exposes them to increasing competition. Being able to understand the needs of customers from different geographical and cultural backgrounds, communicate meaningfully, and deal with complex and ambiguous problems can be the key to customer service and differentiation. In this environment, the need for soft skills is going to intensify.
Soft skills lay the foundation for a positive, psychologically safe workplace culture
Psychological safety at work is an environment where people feel comfortable to speak up and be themselves. When you create psychological safety for your employees, you empower them to innovate and share new ideas, take risks, and voice their concerns if they recognize a problem.
Studies have shown that psychological safety is the secret to high-performing teams — and that it reduces employee turnover.
The driving force behind a psychologically safe culture? Soft skills. Leading with empathy, being open to giving and receiving feedback, active listening, and healthy conflict management are all oft-cited techniques proven to foster psychological safety at work.
Now more than ever, workers are putting their loyalty with companies who offer a positive company culture — with many employees even valuing a strong company culture over higher pay. Yet another reason why soft skills are increasingly important, both among employees and at leadership level.
Soft skills are proven to bring measurable business value
Ultimately, companies who invest in soft skills have a major advantage. Studies have shown that improving soft skills in the workplace can boost revenue by up to $90,000, increase productivity by up to 12%, and have a positive impact on employee retention.
How can you address the soft skills gap in your company?
It’s clear that soft skills are more important than ever for navigating the evolving world of work. When it comes to hiring and training for success, employers must continuously invest in soft skills.
If soft skills training is uncharted territory, you may be wondering how to incorporate it into your learning and development framework. There are many dedicated courses and trainings available — but it’s equally possible to develop critical soft skills without focusing on them directly. In fact, you can nurture certain soft skills in the process of developing hard skills.
One highly effective way to develop key soft skills is through learning a new language. When you learn another language, you don’t just acquire an employability-boosting hard skill. Certain areas of the brain actually increase in size and function, enhancing cognitive function and training essential soft skills.
Some of the most sought-after soft skills that go hand-in-hand with learning a language include communication, problem-solving, empathy, creative thinking, and multitasking.
Getting started with corporate language training
With corporate language training, you’ll not only reap the benefits of a multilingual workforce, you can also empower your employees to strengthen their soft skills in an engaging, enjoyable way that doesn’t feel like “just another corporate training.”
Babbel for Business is a flexible language learning solution built to empower your employees not only to learn a new language, but to simultaneously develop critical soft skills. In addition to nurturing a multilingual workforce, you’ll help your employees to become better communicators, to develop empathy, and to problem-solve creatively — all critical skills in today’s workplace.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of corporate language training and how it can help to address the soft skills gap in your company, check out all the Babbel B2B benefits here.