The demand for soft skills above and alongside technical abilities is growing in the ever-changing labor market. In particular, soft skills have an acute role as young people seek to be welcomed into the workforce. As the soft skills facts below highlight, they are required in fighting unemployability and other challenges facing employment and the future of work.
The increasingly high demands for soft expertise are likely to continue to grow as education creates more of a balance between hard and soft skills, teaching both as opposed to favoring hard skills-based curricula. While at the same time, employers continue to re-assess the importance and seek higher volumes of rounded candidates who can exhibit effective communication, influence, create, lead, and build relationships.
Furthermore, we live in an age where technology continues to change the nature of the workforce. From AI through automation and more, arguably, the more monotonous tasks of the industrial era are being replaced with machines and code. As such, the ability to work effectively with other people and create customer value have become important skills.
Read More: What Are Soft Skills?
#1 - According to a study in 2016, 93% of employers term soft skills as either “very important” or “essential.”1
Undoubtedly, soft skills are essential for every employee seeking to find a footing in an organization. Soft skills like being organized, nurturing and maintaining relationships, demonstrating motivation and initiative, etc., all help show the employer that you're up for the task.
#2 - In the UK, 97% of employers say that soft skills are key to business growth or success2
The growth of any business depends on the soft skills of the leadership and the employee. Now, you may begin to wonder how. The ability of an employee to relate with customers while providing them with top-notch services professionally can serve as a ladder to earn more loyal customers, hence yielding profit.
Asides from this, the expertise of a company's leadership can rub off on its employees, leading to a more productive, engaging, and healthy work environment. Another important thing to look at is how well employees work with each other in reaching the company's set goals
#3 - However, 54% of the employees say they have not included soft skills in their CV2
This only shows that many employees either don't sufficiently value the soft skills they possess or perhaps don't know how best to explain them to their current or future employers. Of course, the alternative view is a deficit of soft skills in the workforce or a mismatch between expectations and presentation (explored later in this article).
#4 - 55% of CFOs agreed that the greatest challenge of hiring professionals in accountancy is how to choose a candidate with the right soft skills2
#5 - HBR writer Lou Solomon wrote that 69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating (a soft skill) with their employees2
Communication skills are an important talent and one of the primary tools people should possess to relate to others, especially in the workplace. However, the Harvard Business Review writer noted that managers shy away from communicating with their employees. This can be as simple as not providing feedback when something goes wrong, offering praise or a word of encouragement, giving directions where necessary, or lack of communication altogether.
With this, employees' poor performances may be unaddressed, resulting in less trust, while even top-performing employees can feel discouraged for not being recognized. In a way, all of these affect the company's bottom line as they, in turn, impact productivity and efficiency.
#6 - Although 97% of employers said soft skills are essential, a mere 37% of the same set of employers said their entry-level employees possess the necessary soft skills3
As such, soft skills, including the combination of communication skills, problem-solving, teamwork skills, spirit, critical thinking, people skills, emotional intelligence, and other on-the-job skills, are crucial to the success of job-seekers and company performance.
#7 - 53% of the survey respondents believed rate staff soft skills as good3
#8 - 90% of them agreed that soft skills training is a suitable method of evaluating and developing recruits and current employees3
#9 - In contrast, only 51% of employees believed (or strongly agreed) that their company or organizations really understand the kind of soft skills they want3
#10 - Only 31% of employers actually provide soft skill development training to their employees3
The reasons for the lack of soft skills training vary from a lack of skilled trainers of the right curriculum to an inability to identify the problem.
This is to say that soft skills are not easily identifiable, but they must be explored, exhibited, and developed. Soft skills have come to challenge employers, employees, and job seekers. As such, the role of successful soft skills training can enhance our career success and organizational growth.
#11 - Stanford Research Center and Harvard University, and Carnegie foundation found that a whopping 85% of job success comes from excellent soft and people skills. 15% comes from technical skills3
As a result, this highlights a paradigm shift from an era of high demand for graduates with merely great learning and hard skills through an increasing emphasis on well-developed soft skills. However, soft skills, by their nature, are less measurable.
#12 - The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development showed a chart of work hours, considering work ethic as a form of soft skill. They found out that Average Americans put more hours into work than many industrial nations: 99 more hours than workers in Britain, 70 hours than Japanese, 424 more hours than Germans4
#13 - According to a paper (the class of 2030) by Microsoft and Mckinsey, 30 to 40% of future jobs will depend on social-emotional skills5
#14 - The same report says that 12% of full-time employees are employed on a casual basis. While 25% of Australians are employed on a casual basis.
#15 - At the Talent Conference in 2020, Susan Collins read some interesting facts. She said 97% of employers agreed that soft skills are essential. However, 18 months after their first day on the job, 46% of employees fail. Out of this 46%, 89% failed because they don’t have such soft skills such as the ability to get along or lack professionalism on the job11
This also emphasizes the need for the soft skills written on the CV to support job specifications and be dependably exhibited in a work environment.
#16 - 91% of organizations want more soft skills7
#17 - 81% of such companies find it challenging to hire talent with strong soft skills7
#18 - Four trends are transforming your workplace. They are soft skills (91%), work flexibility (72%), anti-harassment (71%), and pay transparency (53%)7
These trends, according to research, are transforming our workplace, and they cannot be learned in the classroom or through an aptitude test.
Soft skills are complex compared to classical skills and technical skills, so their teachability and tactfulness are not only challenging to educators, but they have also rendered invalid the general measurements of skills and attainment (exams, marking, etc.).
A standard method of soft skill attainment in schools and colleges involves working in groups and undertaking projects in teams. However, the end evaluation of how well soft skills have been learned and retained remains challenging in this structure as a result of the influence of peer pressure.
“The development of soft skills is much more difficult than the development of hard skills because it requires actively interacting with others on an ongoing basis and being willing to accept behavioral feedback.”8
Moreover, while hard skills can be learned from studying a book or individual training, soft skills typically require different structures and methods. Research has proven the importance of the environment in which soft skills and their behaviors are learned, alongside and with other people in the same shared space.
For this reason, soft skills learning is not on an individual alone. It is inspired by different variables and interactions with others, informing how we might improve education for soft skills. Considerations include:
Training transfer: The extent to which what is learned in training is applied on the job to enhance job-related performance.9
“Prior research and anecdotal evidence have emphasized that soft-skills training is significantly less likely to transfer from training to job than hard-skills training.”
The OECD ‘Future of Education and Skills 2030’ report published in 2019 explained that globalization and rapid growth in technology and artificial intelligence in the world are the drivers of the need for employees with soft skills.
To have career success in this ever-growing world, one will need:
‘to remain competitive, workers will need to acquire new skills continually, which requires flexibility, a positive attitude towards lifelong learning, and curiosity’ (OECD, 2019).
(DeKorver, Choi, and Town, 2017) and (Lee and Tsai, 2004) argued that to maximize the benefits of soft skills over the long term, soft skills training should start early, working with children as young as 1 – 9 years old.
Nobel prize winners Heckman and Kautz (2012]) also provided evidence of the need to start young in their analysis of the Perry Preschool Soft Skills program. They exposed how personality traits can be changed positively.
This program involved teaching social skills to 3 and 4-year-old children from low-income black families with Intelligent quotient scores below 85. They designed the program to develop the preschoolers' decision-making and problem-solving skills, and it was delivered via a 1.5-hour teacher visit to students' homes with parents' approval. The impact was reviewed by the children themselves with support from an adult.
Using randomized controlled trials (RCT) for evaluation, it records 60% of the program group earning more per year (over $20 000) once in the workforce, as compared to the 40% that the non-program group earns.
"Besides, 77% of the program group graduated high school, whereas only 60% of the non-program group graduated. Other life outcomes included program school participants were less likely to get arrested, not own their own home and car, and had fewer teenage pregnancies."
(Heckman and Kautz, 2012).
#19 - AI-based tools can be used for determining soft skills. However, 75% of employers still use behavioral questions, and 70% use body language7
#20 - Hiring managers are always searching for technical and relevant job experience, but 92% say soft skills are more valuable than technical skills. 89% of the managers said bad hires usually don’t have soft skills7
#21 - The five most in-demand soft skills are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management7
#22 - According to MIT management, the return on soft skill training can be as high as 250 %.
The basis for this return was research assessing a 12-month soft skills training program with a focus on problem-solving and decision-making, communication, time and legal literacy and social entitlements, stress management, financial literacy, and execution excellence9
#23 - In 2014, Google conducted a test to determine the eight essential skills that qualify its top employees. STEM expertise came last. The top seven are 1) being a good coach, 2) listening and communicating 3) possessing insights into others. 4) having empathy toward and supporting one’s colleagues, 5) critical thinking, 6) problem-solving, 7) the ability to connect complex ideas10
#24 - According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, based on a survey among 260 employees, communication is among the top 3 most sought-after skills10
#25 - 30% of candidates do not have the right soft skills6
#26 - The top 3 soft skills in short supply are problem-solving 37%, critical thinking 32%, innovation, and creativity 31%6
#27 - More than 50% said that the shortage of skills (both soft and technical) has worsened over the years6
#28 - Only 10% thought otherwise6
#29 - Of all of the problems recruiters are facing during the recruitment process. Lack of skills is 30%, while candidates’ lack of interest in the company is 32%, and competition from other employers is 43%6
#30 - 51% said that the education system hasn’t helped close the skill gap. The open-ended responses show that skills lacking across education systems are professionalism, critical thinking, lifelong learning, and business acumen6
This, in essence, translates that classroom learning as a teacher-to-student relationship is only knowledge-centered and not learning designed to foster soft skills. So, soft skills like communication abilities, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, employability, and time management skills, are found wanting after many students have successfully sat for and passed their required exams.
#31 - In a survey conducted in 2016 by Deloitte found 63 percent of millennials said their company did not develop their leadership skills8
#32- Linkedin’s top 3 “skills companies need most” for the years 2019 and 2020 are the same. The skills include creativity, persuasion, collaboration12
In summary, the following are the must-have soft skills as compiled by Eastern Kentucky University from executive listings.
These hard facts about soft skills are essential for those undertaking a job search and looking to join the workforce. As well as those looking to live life to the point of career and personal success.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.