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Soft Skills – More Important Than Hard Skills?

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Soft skills have often been the target of debates and disputes, particularly between managers and human resource departments. For a long time now, companies have held a strong belief that hard skills matter more than soft skills in their workforce and in the prospects of availing jobs.

An interesting study is all set to challenge this age long belief now. Namrata Kala, Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan co-authored a year-long workshop on these so-called soft skills with textile workers in Bangalore. She reported a return on investment of 250 percent after just a single financial year! That, clearly, is nowhere near a ‘soft’¬†gain. Such an overwhelming response is sure to topple the centuries long opinion about the results that soft skills provide.

So, what are soft skills?

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In high school terms, these were the skills you utilized when you were being judged for extra-curricular activities. People tend to imagine soft skills as being tangential to the requirements at hand. However, their beauty lies in their contradictory nature. They are defined in contrast to ‘hard skills’, but provide a delightful compliment to them too. For example – a cashier in the grocery store must know how to operate the cash register. That is a hard skill; one that is necessary for the job. But an additional benefit would be his ‘soft skill’ ability to chat up customers and act as a great salesman.

Why are soft skills important?

With an incessant supply of people who are sometimes, even overqualified for the job, the list of prospective candidates looks almost like an à la carte menu. Keeping that in mind, companies are sure to turn towards secondary skills that the candidates have. In this instance, these secondary targets are soft skills. Here is an undeniable proof of the same:

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To work in a software giant like Google, you need hard skills like mathematics and coding abilities, However, an internal study dubbed as Project Oxygen and conducted in 2013 set out to analyze what makes their employees so great. Eventually, it came up with a list of 8 requirements that characterize the best managers. Here is the clincher: Technical skills came last, and soft skills like being a good coach or empowering your co-workers occupied the top spot.

If that doesn’t sway your scales down enough, there was another study at Google named Project Aristotle that compared two teams. Team A, stocked with the best scientists and Team B, that offered a lesser STEM expertise but better soft skills. And once again, Team B came up with better ideas and products than what Team A could muster.

Benefits of learning soft skills:

  1. They bring in money
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If one were to argue that soft skills do not provide a good financial return, the study by MIT Sloan clearly proves elsewhere. One  cannot simply ignore a return on investment of 250%! It proves that hard skills are linked to soft skills; and soft skills compliment their counterparts.

2. They provide a better workplace

This is an easily understandable point. An environment fuelled by easy-going communication and friendly co-workers is sure to provide a boost. Workers in such an environment feel more at ease and studies have shone it causes an optimistic shift in ideas.

3. Soft skills provide efficiency in hard skills and improve results!

The nomenclature of hard skills support their seemingly tangible nature. However, they are rapidly going out of date, like home buttons on iPhones. More people are learning the importance of worker satisfaction and good communications between employees as a fuel for better and more productive results. The next time you plan to apply for a job, remember that hard and soft skills aren’t independent to each other. Rather, gaining soft skills can lead to an increased efficiency in hard skills, thereby increasing your chances of landing a great job.

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