The technology sector is changing rapidly every day. And with it so is the way we live and work. But is upgrading technical knowledge enough for IT professionals to keep pace with these changes and stay relevant in the job market? Not really. These skills only help up to a point. As you move up the corporate ladder, soft skills matter a lot more. They include intangible and non-technical abilities such as how you interact with colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work.

Why Soft Skills?

Most studies stress the importance of soft skills today. Soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, thinking critically and collaboration are essential not just for your career growth but also for the growth of your team and your organization. Companies want to hire and retain employees with good soft skills as they allow for smooth functioning and high productivity of an organization.

A 2017 Google study, Project Aristotle, reinforces the importance of soft skills in high-tech environments. It says the best teams at Google are made up of people with a range of soft skills. They include people who understand and practice equality, are curious about the ideas of their teammates and display empathy and emotional intelligence.

A 2018 report by US-based technology management consulting firm WestMonroe on the convergence of technology and soft skills says 60% of HR managers find it difficult to hire for the technology domain—largely due to the lack of soft skills. The report says good communication and collaboration are key skills for technology professionals to advance in their careers. It found that 71% of technology projects were delayed due to collaboration issues.

Soft Skills Over Technical Skills

A person who works well in a team will likely get a promotion to a managerial level over someone with just better technical skills. Similarly, a worker who can effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas makes the work environment more productive and pleasant. A good starting point to building this critical skill would be Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course. It will help you deliver ideas with precision, use empathy and logic to connect with others and stand out as an effective speaker everyone wants to listen to.

LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2020 also says the top skills for this year were more human-centric than the previous year. The power of persuasion and adaptability feature as top skills that employers want today. A persuasive employee can influence their team to work more productively, setting themselves up for success. Likewise, a company will not hesitate to put an adaptable person on different projects, making them valuable to any organization.

Marks Are Not Enough

Having an Ivy League degree or years of technical experience on your resume won’t be enough in the future. Apart from communication and collaboration, negotiating the modern workplace needs a host of other skills. These include smart decision-making and proficient writing. Critical thinking is another much-needed skill in the workplace. A mature, thinking professional must be able to separate opinion from fact and make well-reasoned arguments by joining the dots.

A Word Economic Forum (WEF) study has found that the top skills and skill groups that will become more prominent in the next five years include critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

In many ways, describing these skills as ‘soft’ might be undervaluing their criticality. They might soon be rebranded ‘core’ skills for professional success in the technology domain. So if you’re an IT professional, coding isn’t all you need. Communication and collaboration are just as important.

(This article was first published in CIOL.) 

Mansi Tikoo is a Consultant, Curriculum at Harappa Education. She is a postgraduate in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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