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In the AI era, getting a grip on soft skills – those social and behavioral strengths – is becoming crucial, right alongside your tech know-how. They're not just buzzwords; they're your ticket to professional success (Herrity, 2023). With AI and automation shaking up the job scene, these skills are showing their true staying power and usefulness.

Take skills like creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, for instance. These are becoming gold in a world where machines are taking over the routine stuff. Creativity fuels innovation and imagination, something robots can't touch. Critical thinking? It's all about tackling complex problems and weighing options with a clear head. And emotional intelligence? That's our human superpower – making meaningful connections that machines just can't replicate (Marr, 2020).

In this fast-changing tech landscape, blending soft skills with technical abilities is key to not just surviving but thriving in the AI age. In this article, we're diving into how HR pros can spot, grow, and leverage these crucial skills to amp up team dynamics and organizational performance.

Defining Soft Skills?

Soft skills, at the heart of skills the modern professional world, are those intrinsic qualities that determine the way we interact and integrate into a working environment. Although intangible, these behavioral skills play a crucial role in distinguishing between candidates during the recruitment process, and between employees within the company.

89% of managers say that recruitment failures are due to poorly matched soft skills. Linkedin talent trends

These skills are not limited to technical knowledge or expertise in a specific field. Rather, they represent an individual's ability to adapt, collaborate, solve problems innovatively, and navigate complex situations with agility and intelligence. In a job market where technicality is becoming the norm, soft skills are becoming the real differentiating factor, making it possible to distinguish resilient profiles and valuable players within companies.

For the more curious, we recommend our overview of the different skills categories.

The Strategic Role of HR in Developing Soft Skills

Human Resources (HR) play an essential strategic role in the identification and integration of skills soft skills within companies. While their importance is recognized for team dynamics, leadership and employee commitment, it is crucial to note that their management and recognition often remain neglected. How do you manage all skills ? See our full report: "Everything you need to know about managing skills".

HR Understanding and Detection of Soft Skills

In practice, although soft skills are appreciated, they are not always systematically detected, formalized or integrated into the company's day-to-day processes. This represents a major challenge for HR professionals: not only to identify these qualities when recruiting, but also to recognize and value their presence within existing teams. How can this be done when skills are often implicit?  

  • First option: link them to talents using pre-formalized reference systems
  • Second option: ask employees to provide information 
  • Third option: suggest these gentle skills to employees so that they can assess themselves.
  • Essential step: include a 360° evaluation/feedback dimension, not just managers.
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A few figures on soft skills

  • Career Education Review's 2016 study illustrates this gap: only 51% of employees feel that their company really understands the significance of soft skills in their day-to-day assignments.
  • Furthermore, according to the Stanford Research Center, Harvard University and the Carnegie Foundation, 85% of job success is attributable to excellent interpersonal and personal skills skills .
  • Finally, a study by Microsoft and McKinsey ("The Class of 2030") indicates that 30% to 40% of future jobs will depend on socio-emotional skills, highlighting the growing importance of these skills in the changing professional world.

This underscores the need to develop effective strategies for better understanding and integrating soft skills into organizational culture. This means moving from passive recognition to a proactive approach, where soft skills are actively sought out, identified and promoted in the workplace.

Balance between Soft Skills and Hard Skills 

Interconnecting Soft Skills and Hard Skills

HR management requires a subtle balance between soft skills and hard skills, two complementary pillars in the world of work. While hard skills are measurable and directly linked to specific tasks, soft skills, such as communication and adaptability, play a role in the accomplishment of several tasks: they are cross-functionalskills .

Benefits of Soft Skills in the Workplace

The importance of soft skills in job success
The importance of soft skills in job success

Soft skills offer many advantages in the professional environment, including :

  • Improved communication: Soft skills such as active listening and clear expression facilitate effective communication, essential for avoiding misunderstandings and strengthening team collaboration.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Teamwork skills, flexibility and empathy contribute to more fruitful collaborations and better group dynamics.
  • Harmonious Work Environment: Skills such as conflict management and interpersonal sensitivity help create a more pleasant, less stressful work environment.
  • Effective leadership: Soft skills are crucial for leaders, enabling them to motivate, inspire and guide their teams in an empathetic and visionary way.
  • Innovation and Problem Solving: Creativity, critical thinking and open-mindedness, key soft skills, foster innovation and help find original solutions to professional challenges.

These advantages underline the importance of soft skills in the development of a workforce adaptable to constant changes in the work environment. It is interesting to examine them from the perspective of the most penurious skills according to the Society for Human Resources Management:

  • Top 1: problem solving 37%, 
  • Top 2: Critical Thinking 32% of the time
  • Top 3: innovation and creativity 31

Reflections on the Place of Soft Skills in the Business Portfolio skills

Rather than dictating practices, let's consider a few key questions for HR: 

  • How do you assess the right balance between soft and hard skills within a skills reference framework for a variety of professions? 
  • How can soft skills training complement existing technical skills and improve overall performance? 
  • Finally, how can soft skills be proactively integrated into recruitment and professional development strategies to build resilient, adaptive teams?

These questions are essential in the search for the perfect alchemy between skills technical and behavioral skills, enabling teams to meet complex challenges in a constantly changing business environment. We refer you to Jérémy Lamri and Michel Barabel's excellent book "Le défi des Soft Skills".

Section 3: Types of soft skills

The diversity of soft skills reflects the multiple facets of human faculties. To manage and develop them effectively, it is useful to sub-categorize them. This approach enables a more targeted understanding and application of these organizational assets.

Behavioral soft skills

Behavioral soft skills focus on our actions and behaviors in response to our environment and interactions. They govern the way we conduct ourselves, manage our emotions and interact with others. These skills are essential for navigating work dynamics and personal relationships.

Examples of behavioral soft skills:

  • Emotional intelligence: understanding and managing your own emotions and empathizing with others.
  • Interpersonal skills: Ability to communicate and interact effectively with colleagues.
  • Resilience: The ability to recover from setbacks and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Autonomy: The motivation to initiate tasks and pursue goals without external incentives.
  • Adaptability: Ability to adjust to new conditions and manage change with ease.

Soft Skills Relationnelles

Soft skills are the ability to interact appropriately with others. They are crucial to establishing positive working relationships, facilitating communication and fostering a collaborative work environment.

Examples of soft skills:

  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Conflict management
  • Teamwork
  • Professional social network

Cognitive Soft Skills

Cognitive soft skills involve the ability to think creatively, solve problems and make informed decisions. They are vital for innovation and the ability to adapt to constantly changing environments.

Examples of cognitive soft skills :

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Decision-making
  • Mental flexibility
  • Continuous learning

These categories of soft skills are fundamental in the professional environment, each playing a unique role in contributing to an organization's efficiency and success.

Frequently asked questions

What are the main soft skills?

  • The "4Cs " are the consensus in the field of soft skills: creativity, for finding solutions; critical thinking, for logical reflection; cooperation and communication, essential for working together. They form the basis of collective intelligence and professional performance, now and in the future, particularly in mental activities. A meta-skill also stands out: the ability to learn, which is fundamental.

What's the difference between soft skills and hard skills?

  • Whereas hard skills are specific to each profession, soft skills are more cross-functional, associated with personality and its development. A balance between hard and soft skills undeniably contributes to professional success. These two types of skills, although distinct, complement each other, forming the two essential facets of a professional's profile.

How do you assess soft skills?

  • Soft skills can be assessed via web platforms offering psychometric tests in the form of online questionnaires, which analyze personality, motivation and reasoning to deduce soft skills.
  • Assessment Centers are also an excellent method, putting candidates through a variety of tests and real-life situations. This approach is based on what candidates actually do, rather than on their diplomas or statements.
  • Gamification is also an effective way of confronting HR's feelings with the reality of candidates' or employees' behavior in a real-life context.
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