Not that soft after all: the power of soft skills in the workplace

In Portugal we spend, on average, 1.863,17 hours a year working and 2.555 hours sleeping, but this time we will focus on the working side. We may say that work is not everything in our lives (and it shouldn’t be), but it is definitely an important part, as it brings the “bread to the table” and allows us to play in this “board game” that we call “capitalism”.

When we are born, we spend some years painting with fingers and playing around, but then we start preparing ourselves to find a way to earn a living. Many people decide to pursue studies by following a common curriculum, methods and teachers that bring the necessary knowledge and technical skills that will suit a certain job. There are also people that get the necessary skills by learning from experience, using pre-defined and long-established know-how and techniques.

What do these people have in common? To some extent, they are all learning the same to deliver a certain work to the best of their ability. The acquired knowledge and skills prepare us for working with quality and efficiency. But, we are not all the same. Every person is “unique” with a set of “other skills” that can also have a very important role in the way we work and how well we do it.  

This is what we call “soft skills” or, in other words, non-technical skills that can have a great impact on how we work. There are people that are born with this type of abilities, they come naturally to them. These people have a great advantage in the workplace as these skills can really make a difference. Someone can be excellent with technical and job-specific skills, but if they don’t communicate well, don’t manage their time properly or can’t work in a team, they will not be as efficient or successful in the workplace.

We can divide the soft skills into 4 groups: social/communication, personality, modes of thinking and work management.

· Social/communication, in which we can include the ability to interact with others (interpersonal skills), the ability to convey or share ideas and feelings effectively (communication skills), the ability to pay attention to and effectively interpret what other people are saying (listening skills), and the ability to collaborate with others towards a common goal in the most effective and efficient way (teamwork skills).

· Personality traits refer to those characteristics of a person that can bring added value to work, such as self-motivation and the ability to motivate others (motivational skills), positive or optimistic attitudes (positivity), and the capacity to rapidly learn new skills in response to changing circumstances (adaptability skills).

 · Modes of thinking, which are directly related to how we solve problems. It includes the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions using the imagination (creative thinking skills), the ability to objectively analyse and evaluate an issue to form a judgment using logic (critical thinking) and the ability to use both logic and imagination to solve problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious (thinking outside the box).

· Work management, in which we include the ability to stay focused and organised (organizational skills), work planning, prioritization, delegation and following up (time management skills), the ability to manage stress while remaining calm, control the emotions and pay attention to others’ feelings (conflict resolution skills), and follow values and principles that contribute to a positive work environment and quality (work ethic).

Of course, it is difficult to find a person that excels in all the skills altogether naturally - that would be a super “soft” human. Usually, people are better in one skill or another. For the rest, they can be taught; there are certain courses or trainings that help you learn what they are and teach you how to make them thrive considering your own qualities or personality type. Then, it is up to you to practice, practice and practice until these skills come naturally to you, or at least become easier to apply.

In LOBA, soft skills are considered a strength and an opportunity. They are valuable assets for the company, and they are also transferable skills, meaning that they can be used regardless of the job type. Therefore, at LOBA, soft skills are looked for in new candidates and cherished, promoted and praised in the workplace.

During the years 2019 and 2020, and because the physical, mental and social well-being of teams has never been more important than today, LOBA employees had the opportunity to attend soft skills trainings on topics such as:

  • Strategies and technologies to work remotely efficiently
  • Situational leadership
  • Emotional intelligence in team leadership
  • Me and the other(s): assertiveness and effective communication
  • Understanding and “deciphering” people/customers
  • Emotional Intelligence, Neuro-linguistic programming and Coaching

Particularly during the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 lockdown, the support from the company was intensified with weekly remote sessions of information and motivational nature that aimed to inspire and enhance certain attitudes and behaviours among the team.

Furthermore, during our annual convention, the “LOBA Summit”, the company recognises, in the form of awards, specific employees that have excelled in applying the values of the company, namely Attitude, Positivity, Trust and Innovation. 

Depending on the period of time, the circumstances and the type of company, there are soft skills that could be more relevant than others. Now more than ever, as remote work becomes a reality for many of us, soft skills such as efficient teamwork, leadership qualities, problem solving and positivity can help companies endure hard times and be more resilient.

So, would you call this soft?

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