THE “HARD” PART ABOUT “SOFT SKILLS”
By Ed DeRoche
“Hard skills” are often thought of as the occupational skills necessary to complete the tangible elements of a job….”Soft skills” can be seen as the behavioral ways in which people go about their occupational tasks. Leadership requires a sophisticated approach to both. Brian Evje, Inc., Nov. 8, 2012
Those of you who read my monthly blogs know that I am enthusiastic about teaching students social skills, emotional skills, thinking skills, and positive character traits.
Over the past few years, business people have been talking and writing about the skill development of employees focusing on the need for developing their “soft skills.” I read that CEOs are starting to talk about wanting employees who are trustworthy, empathetic, adaptable, who can manage their emotions (self control), and have the skills to be better decision-makers. It has been reported that 85 percent of those who lose jobs do so because of inadequate social skills, and that children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college than those who scored low.
In early April, Phil Blair, co-founder of Manpower San Diego, wrote an advice column in the Business Section of the San Diego Union Tribune (4-9-18) titled “Turning Your Soft Skills Into Your Strongest Talents.” Blair noted that business executives reported that among the “technical” talents employees bring to their work and the workplace, there is a need for employees to learn and demonstrate “soft skills” – behavioral attributes such as “adaptability, cultural competence, empathy, intellectual curiosity and 360-degree thinking.”
The Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati compiled a list of the 10 top soft skills that employers seek (with definitions not included here).
In addition, there have been numerous discussions about students and employees learning and using “21st century skills.” There are an abundance of skill lists. A couple of examples will give you the “skill picture” of the future. One group’s list includes:
- Ways of Thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and learning)
- Ways of Working (communication and collaboration)
- Tools for Working (information and communications technology, and information literacy)
- Skills for Living (citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility)
According to this group’s team managers, the two skills that cut across all four categories are “collaborative problem solving” and “learning in digital networks.”
The Thoughtful Learning Group notes that 21st century learning skills are captured in the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating.
Critical thinking is focused, careful analysis of something to better understand it.
Creative thinking is expansive, open-ended invention and discovery of possibilities.
Communicating involves a range of skills such as analyzing, evaluating, reading, speaking, writing, etc.
Collaborative skills require one to be engaged in team building, resolving conflict, managing time, etc.
This May blog offers the what and why but says little about how. I will leave that to you and your colleagues. I think it is fair to say that “hard skills” (STEM) give one the occupational/technical skills to make a living (smart) and the “soft skills” (character education) helps one make that living worthwhile (good).
The 80/20 Rule: It was established back in 1918 by Mann’s study on engineering education that approximately 80 percent of success is due to soft skills while 20 percent is due to hard skills. – National Soft Skills Association, August 3, 2017