Soft Skills and Social Recognition

May 23, 2017
| ByMike Ryan

Here’s a piece of irony for you. Today’s workforce is the most educated cohort in history. Thanks to curriculums heavy on science, technology, engineering and math, most current (and future) employees have no trouble grasping the functional requirements of their jobs.

The problem is (and it’s a big one) that too many are lacking the softer skills of business. In fact, its things like the ability to communicate effectively or the ability to get others to go along with you that are in such short supply. 44% of all business leaders say their employees are missing those softer skills.

Soft skills serve the business’s interest as much as any other competency. When employees don’t have these soft skills, bad things tend to happen; internal conflicts arise, and quality/teamwork suffers. Mostly, employees stop sharing their ideas and insights because they simply don’t trust one another.

Job-related proficiency is vital in any profession. You have got to be able to do what you are getting paid to do. However, over the last decade or so, business leaders have concluded that hiring people with people skills serves their business better. 67% of HR managers said they’d rather hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if their required functional abilities were somewhat lacking. Just 9% said they would consider doing the opposite.

As significant as soft skills are to an employee’s (and the companies that hire them) success rates, they are even more of a factor to those who lead them. The Hay Group found that managers who practice soft skill leadership get more out of their team’s performances, in some cases up to 30% more!

So what do we mean by soft skills? The best way to understand them is to compare them to “hard skills.” Hard skills describe what an employee does (or needs to do) to perform their job well. Soft skills encompass how they go about it. In other words how they interact with and motivate the people around them. Here are two benefits of social recognition with that in mind.

1. Conflicts become creative, not personal.

Creative differences often arise within any workforce, especially when a range of options can be used to fix a problem or attack an opportunity. Some companies fear conflict, but the fact of the matter is constructive conflict fuels growth. Unless of course, the conflict creates personal animosity across employees.

Disagreements become personal when there is no foundation of trust between the people involved. Social recognition can keep disagreements from mushrooming. As employees exchange appreciation over time, they are less likely to react negatively when their ideas are not accepted by others. They don’t take it personally. They know they have the respect and admiration of others. The best idea wins. Most importantly, there are no lingering hard feelings.

2. Advice is accepted, not resented.

Social recognition can also pave the way for a more productive exchange of information. In a knowledge economy it’s only natural that someone has a “better” idea that’s worth sharing. But, passing it on can prove to be delicate. When employees don’t have a history of applauding and encouraging one another “advice” is more likely to fall flat, or worse, be seen as a threat. Managers and employees who recognize one another have earned the right in the eyes of others to pass on their advice in the spirit it was intended. Here coaching is not looked upon as criticism. It’s seen as constructive advice sent by someone who has no other agenda other than to see you succeed.

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