What are soft skills and how to develop them in the workplace?

Soft skills. You’ve probably heard of the term, but what are “soft skills” and how can people develop them in the workplace, at school, or even during childhood?

We spoke with The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Director of Talent Acquisition and Deployment, Susan McKoin, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Managing Director of Life and Workforce Readiness, Greg Wise. Both offered their insights on soft skills, how to develop them in the workplace and beyond, demonstrate them on a resume, the best ones to have, and why soft skills alone aren’t enough to get the job done.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills can encompass many things, and as Greg said, “they are universally transferable skills.” They are things like critical thinking, teamwork, effective communication and resilience. Soft skills are intangible, while hard skills are often job-specific, like the ability to use a computer program, build a house, or design a product, for example.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are something everyone can start learning from a young age, from learning teamwork as part of a sports program to navigating the intricacies of collaboration during a group project at school. .

However, soft skills do not come naturally to many people and can be difficult to pass on, especially in this digital age, where many jobs are remote and people (including our young people) have experienced extended periods of isolation due to the recent pandemic. . As Susan explained, “The sooner we can help young people collaborate and work together to develop soft skills for jobs, the better off they’ll be when they get to the workplace.”

What are some practical tips to help people develop soft skills in the workplace (and beyond)?

Susan McKoin headshotSusan McKoin, Global Director of Talent Acquisition and Deployment, The Coca-Cola Company

When it comes to developing soft skills in the workplace, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, as Susan shared, “people can continually develop soft skills by stepping out of their comfort zone and working collaboratively with others to push the boundaries of what they know.”

Here are some things people can try at work to develop their soft skills (bonus: students can also apply these tips at school or at a boys and girls club):

  • Volunteer to lead a project — this helps develop soft skills in communication, critical thinking, leadership, time management and empathy.
  • Arrange a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or mentor — this enables you to engage in clear communication, take initiative, think critically, lead, practice empathy, and give Y receive feedback.
  • Start an initiative or club — this requires you to exercise leadership, communication, empathy, socialization and time management.

How to Demonstrate Soft Skills for Your Resume

Susan explained that at The Coca-Cola Company, job candidates are encouraged to incorporate soft skills into their resumes and discuss them during the interview process. For example, a candidate may want to include information about leading a team or being a member of a successful team or project in the workplace. “This shows examples of work ethic and time management skills. As applicants describe their accomplishments, they should think about how they can weave in the soft skills that led to that accomplishment,” said Susan.

And for those who may be entering the workforce and don’t have much work experience yet, there are other ways to demonstrate soft skills for jobs. Young people, in particular, may want to consider listing school projects (including their role), volunteer activities, extracurricular club/experience (Club kids, we’re talking to you!), and part-time jobs or internships.

Five soft skills needed to succeed in the workforce

Soft skills cannot be emphasized enough, but they are learned long before a person enters the workforce. Soft skills for future jobs are learned during childhood.

Greg Wise headshotGreg Wise, managing director of Life and Workforce Preparation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America

“The social-emotional learning that occurs prior to a job helps define successful people,” said Greg. “Can you self-regulate, plan ahead to make sure you wake up on time and have your work clothes ready to go, go to school, work and show up with the right attitude?”

“All of those skills need to be learned and practiced before you even score and start getting paid,” Greg continued. “We have an unprecedented opportunity at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and through our partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, among others, to help young people succeed in their community and workplace through our Life & Workforce Readiness for children and adolescents. ”

Boys & Girls Clubs prepare young people for success by instilling soft skills development throughout the Club day, helping children from the age of six to begin developing their communication, teamwork and leadership skills. In addition, the clubs provide mentoring, career exploration, job shadowing, hard skills development, interview preparation and more, including help connecting teens to their first jobs.

“With the support of The Coca-Cola Company, social-emotional skills development, as well as career exploration, continue to be integrated into programming for Club Kids, and both have been and will continue to be a strategic focus of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. . life and workforce readiness strategy,” said Greg.

And as young people grow older and enter the workforce, Susan explained that the top five soft skills she believes are key to employee success are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Ability to adapt
  3. Critical thinking
  4. strong work ethic
  5. Communication

“At The Coca-Cola Company, we have a mentoring program and a strong learning environment. We want to encourage all employees around the world to continuously learn throughout their career and develop their interpersonal skills. At the same time, it is a two-way street; people must want to improve and have the drive to reach their full potential. We are here to help everyone succeed,” said Susan.

Soft skills and hard skills are needed to get the job done

The truth is that soft skills alone will not get you where you need to go, but they will still be non-negotiable for employers. In fact, a LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report indicated that 92% of hiring managers said that soft skills are equal to or more important than technical skills when it comes to hiring. Additionally, nearly 9 in 10 said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s usually because they lack critical soft skills for the jobs.

So whether you’re preparing to enter the workforce or already in it, continually developing your soft and hard skills is critical. This “lifelong learning” approach will ensure that the possibilities for your growth are truly limitless.

Soft skills building starts here

With an emphasis on social-emotional learning, Boys & Girls Clubs across the country help young people develop the soft skills needed to become problem solvers, communicators and leaders, so they can find a job they love when they’re ready. Learn how clubs are preparing youth for college, careers and life, and how we can help you too.

The Coca-Cola Company is a founding partner of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Life & Workforce Readiness program, which helps prepare today’s youth for the workforce and for life. Linked here are more details on this association.

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