Today’s businesses are increasingly recognizing the significance of soft skills. These skills encompass a variety of abilities that can help teams improve productivity, accomplish projects more quickly and thoroughly, and increase engagement and retention.
Research by professor Achyuta Adhvaryu of the University of Michigan found that one soft skills training program resulted in a 256% ROI as a result of boosts in productivity and retention. Furthermore, according to the Project Management Institute, “Successful project management requires more than the mastery of technical skills related to process, frameworks, and discipline; it also requires a special set of skills to marshal all resources toward a common goal.”
For a successful project, it’s essential that each member of a team is capable of communicating effectively. Give team members equal time to present not just project status but any suggestions or concerns that arise, any glitches they perceive, or any struggles they are dealing with. This open communication is essential in bringing projects to a successful conclusion.
What Are the Top Soft Skills for Teamwork?
A Positive Attitude
There is, perhaps, no attribute that is more vital than a positive attitude. It can change the tenor of a team and prevent it from going off track if a problem crops up. Optimistic people are confident that there is no problem that can’t be resolved and will keep the team open to possibilities.
Each team member must be able to communicate across departmental lines, especially for cross-functional project teams. He or she must also be able to adapt to different communication styles, vernacular and word choices, and even languages at times.
Too often, people equate creativity with artistic ability, but it’s frequently a matter of being able to examine challenges from a different perspective and identify new solutions.
Team members should be comfortable bringing up problems and be confident that everyone will be held accountable. They should also be willing to hold themselves accountable and be honest when they make a mistake.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Many different situations can come up during the course of a project. It’s essential that employees are able to roll with changes. For example, if new members are added to the team or new deliverables are added to the project, team members must be able to adapt and remain focused on project objectives.
Problem-solving is one of the most important soft skills on a project team. A person with the ability to critically examine issues that arise in the course of a project and see a clear path to resolution is a valuable addition to the team.
There are two personality extremes when it comes to dealing with conflict. There are those who attack the problem aggressively, which can lead to defensiveness and even fear but is seldom productive. Conversely, there are those who avoid conflict at all costs, which can be equally destructive, as problems go unreported or they are intimidated by more assertive team members. The happy medium is someone who will face problems head-on with a mind toward finding a satisfying compromise.
The Ability to Coach or Mentor
Part of becoming a valued employee is teaching others. It demonstrates teamwork and leadership skills to develop the skills of team members, delegate to them and cross-train them, making each individual a stronger member of the team.
How Can Leaders Promote Soft Skills?
Leaders can promote soft skills by looking for them in job candidates. Also essential is emphasizing their value in day-to-day work activities and rewarding employees who demonstrate them.
Create an organization where learning is valued and soft skills are respected. In LinkedIn’s “2018 Workforce Learning Report,” while 92% of executives said that soft skills are as important or more important than technical skills, 89% executives said that people with soft skills are hard to find. Training existing employees in these skills, therefore, is important.
Begin by setting expectations for each employee. For example, an IT professional may have strong technical skills, but her position might also call for the ability to explain technology to non-technical individuals. Set clear and specific goals for the behavior, and provide ongoing feedback and course-correction on a regular basis, rather than waiting for an annual review.
Soft Skills Are Part of an Evolving Workplace
According to a Udemy survey of 400 L&D leaders, 31% of organizations “plan to add artificial intelligence, machine learning, and algorithms to personalize learning in the next few years.” These technologies free individuals and companies to focus on relationship-building and higher-level thinking. In an era when technology is advancing rapidly, it’s easy to forget the importance of simple human interactions. Open and honest communication can go a long way toward building and maintaining the relationships that create effective project teams. While technical or job-specific skills should not be ignored, all things being equal, individuals who also bring soft skills to the team have an edge.