Seven Universal Soft Skills Everyone Should Master

Soft Skills GraphA 256% net return on investment—it’s the holy grail of training outcomes and easier to achieve than you might think. A study conducted by Boston College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan found that soft skills training does NOT create soft results. The study showed that even minimal time investments in each skill (5-12 hours) boosts productivity and retention 12 percent and those results last up to 9 months.

While the selection process typically focuses on degrees, years of experience, and technical skills, it’s the soft skills that make or break most employees. Doing the job isn’t enough in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing environment. The difference between a good employee and a great one is in the soft skills. It’s the ability to communicate needs, collaborate across divisions, be resilient under stress, and adapt to challenging situations that matters. Training on these skills will give your organization the bench strength to succeed for years to come.

Here are seven universal soft skills that should be at the forefront of your training and development initiatives:

  • Communication: The ability to communicate starts with good listening skills. Listening to the needs and concerns of others without mentally preparing your response is a strategic skill that translates into improved communication. Being able to articulate a position, communicate effectively while under stress, make presentations, and write professionally are basic needs for all workers.
  • Critical thinking: The ability to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions is a cognitive ability that is lacking among recent college graduates. Only 28% of 4-year college graduates are rated by their first employer as having “Excellent” critical thinking skills. This skill has been ranked the Most Important and Most Lacking Competency of Next Generation leaders.
  • Stress resilience: Workplaces are inherently stress-inducing. Deadlines, shifting priorities, and competing demands can push an employee to their limits. This is compounded exponentially when the economy is down and/or the business is struggling. An individual who can endure ongoing stressful situations will remain focused on the task at hand and not be distracted by factors outside of their control.
  • Time management: This is really a combination of several other soft skills including self-awareness, drive, motivation, and communication. An individual with time management skills knows their abilities and limits and can honestly communicate those to their team. They commit to what is logical and reasonable and then stick to a pace that allows them to hit their deadline.
  • Teamwork: Much like time management, teamwork is also a combination of several other soft skills. Teamwork requires respect for others, communication skills, openness to new ideas, collaboration, time management, accountability, and interpersonal skills.
  • Accountability: A team member who says what they’re going to do and then follows through with action is invaluable! This person can be relied upon to take ownership of an issue and be accountable if things do not go according to plan.
  • Adaptability: Finally, if there’s one thing you can count on consistently in an organization, it’s change. Change is constant. Being able to ride the wave of change without letting the ambiguity and uncertainty of the future become a distraction is incredibly difficult. Adapting to new environments and changing business needs will continue to be a key soft skill for years to come as organizations become increasingly volatile and complex.