Flexibility, curiosity and empathy: the importance of soft skills

Day-to-day work in a large company is focused on achieving goals. The pace is determined by numbers, deliveries and the desire to always keep reaching the best results. Between deadlines and tasks, often little attention is paid to soft skillswhich are essential for creating professional, pleasant and productive work environments.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are related to our personality and character, and they are related to our behaviors. Some examples include flexibility, integrity, curiosity, communication style, time management, and how we handle complex situations.

Technical skills, on the other hand, are related to the knowledge of certain techniques or areas of expertise. Speaking languages, operating a machine, writing code and performing complex mathematical calculations are examples of technical skills.

The main differences between soft skills and hard skills are determined by how they are acquired and how they are used in the workplace. Technical skills are acquired through education or specific training and practice. Soft skills relate to personality traits and skills acquired and developed throughout life.

These are crucial in many aspects of our lives. In the workplace, their importance is manifested when working as a team and collaborate with other people. Nowadays, it is very difficult to carry out complex projects without relying on others, whether they are workers of the same company (colleagues or bosses, for example) or external partners (suppliers, shareholders or customers, to name a few).

We live in a social ecosystem, so knowing how to communicate, adapt and learn from others is essential. A work team made up of people lacking soft skills would be like a soccer team whose players cannot pass the ball or talk to each other. This team could have the best players in the world, and the result would still be a mess.

But are they soft skills or power skills?

Traditionally, especially in more technical sectors, a strong emphasis has been placed on hard skills, with soft skills being left out. However, general skills play an essential and complementary role in achieving better results in a more sustainable way.

As proof, in 2020, the World Economic Forum selected on Tenmost important skills for the future of work, and eight were soft skills. Analytical thinking, the ability to innovate and active learning top the list of skills that employers say will grow in importance in the years to come.

Just three years earlier, a 2017 study that found the Stanford Research Institute and Carnegie Mellon Foundation survey of 500 CEOs revealed that 75% of success in long-term work is the result of soft skillswhile only 25% comes from the technical skills of professionals.

Soft skills are so essential that there areain’t nothing sweet about them. “To me, there’s nothing sweet about them: they’re absolutely essential. Teamwork, leadership, decision-making under pressure, communication skills and a culture where people feel empowered to do their job – these are things we talk about in the RAF and the aviation industry to create a safe environment,” says pilot Mandy Hickson. “You can be a phenomenal pilot, but unless you don’t If you have the necessary communication skills, you will never be able to progress or get people to follow you. The two go hand in hand.”

This is why they are so often known and sought after with a much more powerful name: power skills.

In 2019, the Greater Good Science Center of University of Berkeley, Californiawith author Josh Bersin, coined the termpower determining that these skills gave real “power” in the workplace. Issues such as growth, innovation, agility and change depend heavily on values ​​such as generosity, trust and the ability to amaze. These values ​​are the foundation of human happiness, and human happiness is the foundation of employee and business engagement, productivity, and growth.

Another strong proponent of these skills is Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Nadella teaches a ‘growth mindset’ at Microsoft by being aware of how this power affects work, relationships, teams and the organization.

How to develop these skills

According to analyst Josh Bersin, it would not be unreasonable to start thinking of hard skills as soft skills and soft skills as hard. That’s true, he points out, because hard skills change and can quickly become obsolete. Soft skills, on the other hand, are hard to come by and acquiring them requires considerable effort, because they are closely related to character and personality. Consider leadership ability.

However, this does not mean that these skills cannot be learned. Considering the 70-20-10 approach to learning (the idea that 10% of our learning is formal, 20% is shaped by relationships with others, and the remaining 70% by everyday experience), power or soft skills are developed from situations that pose a challenge. Thus, these skills can be reinforced through experiences, feedback from other people, activities and training programs, as well as coaching or mentoring.

For a business, the first step to getting the most out of soft skills is recognize their value then encourage them. At Ferrovial, we strive to identify and develop the most relevant and appropriate energy skills for the company, to evaluate our actions and to encourage these skills to be a fundamental part of the company’s teams on a daily basis. .

In a future where we will need STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics) profiles, the development of energy skills will become increasingly fundamental.

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