How to Emphasize Soft Skills in Today’s Dynamic Market

By MBO Partners | May 2, 2024

Conflict resolution

Key Points

Not long ago, enterprise talent acquisition focused exclusively on technical expertise, known today as hard skills.

As the market space evolved, successful organizations realized that soft skills are as important to business growth as hard skills.

Independents as well as enterprises must find ways to include and foster effective soft skills in the workplace.

Not long ago, enterprise talent acquisition focused exclusively on technical expertise—what we call “hard skills” today. Candidate selection was based on level of knowledge in their subject areas, and independent professionals stressed technical experience in their marketing activities. Soft skills—the behaviors and competencies that foster teamwork and collaborative results—were downplayed or ignored.

Things have changed.

As the market space evolved and disruptions—technological and otherwise—became the rule rather than the exception, successful organizations realized that soft skills are as important to business growth as hard skills. If workers with the necessary technical proficiencies don’t have essential soft skills, they might be unable to adjust smoothly to changing processes, environments, and requirements. Lack of the right communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills in the workforce can hamper enterprise efforts to keep pace with the market and compete effectively.

Independent professionals must include soft skills in their portfolios, and enterprises must consider these skills when engaging talent and planning initiatives.

Showcase Soft Skills as an Independent

Although hard skills demonstrate your technical abilities, soft skills indicate your ability to work with colleagues effectively. Prospective clients are more likely to engage you if you demonstrate how these skills have played a role in your successes. They can indicate workplace aspects such as approach to teamwork, work ethic, and problem-solving/conflict resolution competencies.

If you have not already done so in your marketing activities, include proof that you have the kind of soft skills that clients value. Here are some suggestions:

  • Note soft skills when talking about past successes. For example, if you spotlight an excellent result that displays your technical abilities, include soft skills by moving from “I” to “we.” Talk about how collaboration and effective communication contributed to the team’s success.
  • Commit to continuous learning and improvement. Many courses, workshops, and other offerings focus on soft skills. Include this kind of training in your business plan alongside technical training and continue to increase your mastery of the soft skills that your clients value.
  • Ask references to include soft skills in their commentary. Contact the people from whom you request references and ask them to include their views of your soft skill mastery. Ask them to share examples based on their experiences working with you.
  • Include peers and associates in your testimonial lists. Whether on your website, on your social media, or elsewhere, don’t stop with clients when seeking testimonials. Your peers, fellow team members, and work associates can highlight your soft skill competencies.

On the Enterprise Side: Gauge and Foster Soft Skill Proficiency

If your enterprise does not already include vetting for soft skills in its independent talent acquisition process, this is the right time to start. As you interact with candidates, focus on key competencies and ask questions designed to give you insight into how they approach workplace interactions. Our soft skills interviewing guide can help you select questions that fit your needs and culture.

If you are a Client of Choice, you are likely including independents who are part of your talent network or workforce in your emphasis on soft skills. Offer them learning opportunities to encourage them to improve their mastery of soft skills. In direct interactions, demonstrate your interest in honing soft skills on your team. Overtly acknowledge great teamwork, fruitful conflict resolution, and other examples of the effective application of soft skills in the workplace.


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