With the rise of automation, organizations worldwide have made soft skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking a top priority. To work successfully alongside machines, recent grads and the current workforce must rely on what makes them uniquely human.
According to the ManpowerGroup’s 2016-2017 Talent Shortage Survey, “the most important skill you can nurture is learnability” to stay employable for the long-term. Ironically, the term “learnability” often refers to how easy a software product or interface is to use. However, in the case of employability, it means professionals must become lifelong learners to remain usable themselves.
There is a glaring need for soft skills in the workforce, but a significant gap remains between what skills recent grads think they have and what organizations believe they’re proficient in. Two recent surveys—one that polled students and one that gathered the employer perspective—revealed some startling discrepancies.
- Oral communication skills: More than 65 percent of college students feel very confident they’re prepared to use oral communication skills in the workplace, while less than 30 percent of employers feel the same.
- Critical-thinking skills: Nearly 70 percent of students are confident in their critical-thinking skills, while just 26 percent of employers have the same confidence in their abilities.
- Collaboration skills: Nearly 80 percent of students believe they can work in teams successfully, while less than 40 percent of employers share that sentiment.
The soft-skill-development issue
These discrepancies are alarming, but what causes them?
The soft skills gap exists because these competencies are nearly impossible to assess and improve at scale using traditional methods. Not only do instructors often lack the time and resources to work with students one-on-one to develop these skills, but paper-based assessments can’t accurately measure every soft skill.
The increase in online course offerings adds another layer to the problem. Because instructors, students, and their peers often have less face-to-face contact in distance learning environments, it’s difficult to facilitate the necessary interactions to build soft skills. As a result, many learners don’t properly develop these core competencies prior to graduation.