Soft Skills or Power Skills? Why These Skills are High on the Employment Agenda.
Soft skills, or more recently coined power skills, are increasingly occurring in the focus of employment trends. Soft skills – relating to a person’s non-technical skills – are, rightly so, being considered in a new light. Research suggests that technical knowledge and skills can certainly get you through the door but they only take you so far in securing a job – and maintaining it. The impressive soft skills you possess ensure you stand out from the rest.
At MWA, we are finding that clients are increasingly valuing the importance of candidates’ soft skills. Whether this is due to the virtual world we live in, or due to the evolving nature of the patent attorney role and the increase in communication with a multitude of stakeholders, is uncertain. Yet, what is clear is that soft skills are high on the hiring agenda.
In an ever-changing world, possessing the ability to adapt, communicate flexibly and solve problems in novel ways (just a few soft skills) is essential to the security and prosperity of our careers.
Soft skills – what are they?
Soft skills, as opposed to their hard, technical counterpart, are not easy to define. They encompass personal and interpersonal skills such as communication and teamwork. They also include higher-order skills associated with human thinking, such as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity – all of which enable us to succeed, achieve and prosper across all areas of our lives. They also include our ability to collaborate, manage time effectively, manage stress and working relationships as well as being self-aware.
What does the research say?
Soft skills are evolving and more often people are referring to them as power skills. A name that will perhaps support the way in which we consider these attributes. A report by Udemy Business in 2022, identified that soft skills are what determines the success of an employee at any level in a company (cited by Runyon, 2022).
Of course, hard skills like experience and technical knowledge are vital – particularly in the world of innovation and intellectual property where being a technical expert is a clear necessity. However, it’s still crucial that within technical industries one does not dismiss the importance of soft skills.
In a study by Hirudayaraj et al (2021), researchers identified that when hiring entry-level engineers, it is soft skills that determine the final successful candidates. Although, the level of proficiency in certain soft skills also differed depending on the level of seniority. Clearly, technical skills and knowledge are determiners to innovation, but if you do not posses the ability to solve problems, adapt and communicate then developing, marketing and promoting inventions will surely be limited.
Furthermore, a range of research repeatedly demonstrates the importance of soft skills. Research by Google found that the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills such as, possessing empathy, being a good coach, a critical thinker and problem solver (cited by, Vasanthakumari, 2019). Soft skills can determine your success in a company too. LinkedIn found that when employees don’t last at a company 89% of the time it is because they lack soft skills (cited by Hastings, 2021).
What does this mean for the future?
There is a significant body of research developing that supports the importance of soft skills in today’s workforce. With the increase in Artificial Intelligence, ever-changing working environments and an uncertain job market, it is vital that employees possess the ability to adapt, learn new skills and react to these challenges. In order to harness our power skills, it is vital that we:
- Consciously think about soft skills – it is easy to forget or overlook these broad, personal and intangible skills. However, ensuring that we consider them just as much as we do our technical skills and development is the first step in raising their profile and improving our proficiency.
- As individuals, actively develop soft skills – once we think more actively about our soft skills it is easier to continuously develop them. This can be done in simple ways such as practicing problem solving skills using apps, actively finding opportunities to promote our creativity, or finding courses to develop leadership skills and emotional intelligence. The more skilled we are in these areas, the more we can ensure that we possess the abilities needed to succeed in the modern working world.
- As employers, promote and upskill our teams – it is vital that employers also promote soft skills within their employees. Raising the agenda and providing adequate professional development and feedback on these skills are all essential. A more skilled workforce ensures a more successful and dynamic company.
Essentially, harness your soft skills and transform them into power skills. With an adaptable, analytical, creative attitude we can find ways to make ourselves invaluable to the future changes and developments in our working world.
Hastings, 2021. Soft Skills in the Workplace: Why They Matter for Your Organization. https://emeritus.org/blog/soft-skills-in-the-workplace/
Hirudayaraj, Baker, Baker & Eastman, 2021. Soft Skills for Entry-Level Engineers: What Employers Want. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-7102/11/10/641/pdf
Runyon, 2022 – Why “power skills” is the new term for soft skills in the hybrid work world. https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en-us/posts/legal/power-skills-rebranding/
Vasanthakumari, 2019. Soft Skills and its application in the work place. https://wjarr.com/content/soft-skills-and-its-application-work-place