Social Skills are Essential Skills
September 25, 2019
“Social skills” is a relatively broad term that covers interactions between people and are guided by general social standards. It covers a wide array of skills such as communication, problem solving, team work, cooperation, and empathy. It might seem obvious that these skills are essential to success in the workplace, however, few schools or companies expressly teach these skills because they have long been considered part of the repertoire of skills known as “soft skills,” and thus not as important or valuable as hard or technical skills.
Social skills, however, provide the foundation for social interaction between colleagues, leadership and staff, and staff and clients. When these skills are not honed, communication between parties can, and often does, suffer. While these skills were not viewed as connected to the bottom line, they in fact have a direct impact on the bottom line of every business or organization. For example, what if communication breaks down in the customer service department? What if an employee is short with a frustrated customer? It’s simple – the customer might very well go elsewhere. Even worse in today’s age of social media, that client posts about the incident on Twitter or Facebook for thousands of current or potential customers to see. That impacts the bottom line.
Google “soft skills” and your search feed will populate with article after article outlining the importance of these skills. There has been a shift and everyone from hiring managers to senior leaders recognize the importance of these skills. Yet, this year there has been another shift. While hiring managers will still talk about the need for soft skills, corporate L & D is placing less emphasis on these skills in their trainings. According to the Linkedin Learning’s third annual Workplace Learning Report, soft skills will remain important in 2019, “but will no longer take up the majority of a talent developer’s time.”
What does it mean?
It means companies get it and are working to create an environment where these skills are valued by hiring people who possess these skills from the start. But that doesn’t mean is you shouldn’t continue to hone these skills because these skills are the backbone of management skills. If you can’t communicate, solve problems, cooperate or be empathetic, you cannot lead effectively.
How can I enhance my social skills?
Honestly look at your social skills and rate them. Ask a trusted colleague or mentor for their opinion and then seek out ways to continually improve these skills. For example, maybe written communication is not one of your top skills. So, get to work. Begin by studying effective written communication written by others. Then take time to read your proposals, memos, and emails out loud before sending them – paying attention to flow, awkward sentences, structure, meaning, etc. Then, think about how various forms of written communication will be received. Would it be better to have a face-to-face or telephone conversation? Practice being concise and to the point. Ask for feedback. In the end, the more you approach the process with an open mind, the more you will grow and develop over time.
Social skills are soft skills, which are also known as essential skills or human skills. They are important and necessary to make you the most effective co-worker, colleague, and leader possible. They are skills that can be learned and mastered, but it starts with you and your commitment to grow and develop over time.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies