Articles

Soft Skills Matter

     According to the U.S. Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, some two million workers are leaving their jobs every month. Calling it quits.

   Why?

   A recent study by Accenture indicates that 31 percent don’t like their boss; another 31 percent lack empowerment; internal politics played into another 35 percent; and a lack of recognition resulted in another 43 percent looking for a new job elsewhere.

     Not one reason was the result of career knowledge or lack-there-of. In other words the hard skills. In the majority of instances, those who called it quits blame the soft skills as the primary catalyst for leaving.

     Janine Moon, of Workforce Change, agrees. She believes the soft skills are often ignored. As a former lobbyist, Moon was used to playing the proverbial game of ‘David and Goliath.’ So how did she experience so much career success? Her soft skills.

     “It was the human connections I made that gave me a shot at winning,” she told a breakfast crowd of Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members who’d gathered at the Boathouse in Downtown Columbus Thursday, Sept. 21for the early morning educational opportunity. “It’s about connecting with people on a human basis, on a one-to-one level that we sometimes forget when we move into a business environment. That can be the most effective approach for any business or any organization in terms of accomplishing what it wants to accomplish,” she said.

     The soft skills matter, said Moon, because businesses are in business of making money. And now there is science behind WHY soft skills work in bringing out the best in employees resulting in a more successful and profitable company.

     “Businesses, you have to start looking at these things,” Moon told Central Ohio IFMA members in attendance last month. “You may give it lip service, but you have to look more intently and intensely than you are currently doing.”

     A staggering 85 percent of business people today say they do feel valued or respected by their employers. Moon says it’s that kind of low moral that could easily be turned around with better soft skills and improved human interactions in the workplace.

     Emotions run a business. If you look at the statistics as to why workers quit, the evidence is quite clear. That’s why mastering the soft skills matters, advised Moon – because they draw out the best in others. Emotional engagement leads to a successful business.

     According to Moon, companies across the U.S. lose some $370 billion each year due to a lack of soft skills. But what does it look like when employees are valued and engaged? There is two times more customer loyalty, said Moon, along with 38 percent less absenteeism. Research also shows that soft skills promote a 48 percent decrease in employee accidents. Turnover is down; profitability is up. In fact, there is an overall 21 percent jump in quality productivity. All those factors result in not only success for workers, but for the business as well.

   What are soft skills? Communication, cooperation, motivation, work ethic, leadership, creativity, and effective problem solving are some great examples. Without the soft skills, little else can move forward.

   “Here’s the reality of soft skills and engagement – it doesn’t happen by itself,” Moon warned. “I’m talking about human-to-human connections that are made between peers, certainly, but between managers and their employees, and between leaders and individuals in the organization. Human interaction that inspires and encourages connects to the desire to contribute to the bigger picture.

     “Everyone, without exception, wants to make a difference,” she continued. But when they are turned off, ignored, or treated poorly, the de-motivation is “huge”.

     Moon breaks down the science. And there IS science behind importance of soft skills. Humans actually have three brains – the reptilian brain that drives instinct; the neocortex which drives rational thinking; and the limbic brain which controls emotions and feelings. “It is the seat of all our emotions,” said Moon. “It plays a huge part in who we are as people and how we come across in the world.”

     The limbic brain is fast because its job is to keep us safe (fight or flight). Rational brains are much slower. So as humans, we need to control that limbic brain and consciously move to our more rational brain. In fact, it is our job to recognize, find and minimize triggers. Using our soft skills will help us to do that. Moon said these triggers are threats to our emotional brain and include threats to our status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. They are threats she terms SCARF.

     Using several interactive moments to help drive home her point about the importance of the soft skills, Moon drew the Central Ohio IFMA crowd into her thinking and challenged them to work on their soft skills and human connections upon returning to the workplace. In addition to a workplace assessment, she challenged each member to:

  1. Acknowledge that soft skills make the difference

  2. Pay attention to the brain stuff; teach others

  3. Evaluate engagement levels and the work environment

  4. And strengthen and practice soft skills in the workplace.

 

     “Do something that is a little different,” she encouraged the members. She challenged attendees to examine their own soft skills, the soft-skills of co-workers, and the overall human connections in their workplace. With 52 percent of today’s workforce not engaged, she advised making it a point to cultivate that human-to-human interaction and to increase the engagement in their place of work.

     “The hard truth is,” Moon concluded, “soft skills matter.”