A spotlight on this employee in a sea of random employees highlights how soft skills such as creativity are important.

15 hard and soft skills today’s grads need to succeed

In a global and competitive workforce, hard and soft skills are of the utmost importance--here are the most in-demand skills

In today’s competitive society, it’s important for colleges and universities to produce graduates with hard skills such as programming–but equally important are soft skills, such as creativity.

A new LinkedIn analysis takes a look at the top hard and soft skills recruiters seek in job applicants and potential employees. Successful professionals will have a mix of hard and soft skills, which will make them highly-qualified for specific tasks and able to work effectively with a diverse array of peers.

Soft skills have traditionally been hard to measure, but they’re no less important.

Recent research notes that soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, and communication are critical to hiring managers as they evaluate job applicants. But applicants with strong soft skills–also called employability skills–are hard to find.

A soft skills gap exists for many students because these competencies are hard to assess and improve at scale using traditional methods. Instructors often lack time and resources to help students develop these skills, and 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. Experiential exercises, personalized feedback, and peer review are a few of the ways higher-ed is trying to help students build these skills.

The World Economic Forum notes that complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity are the three most important skills that will help workers thrive in 2020 and beyond.

Generation Z seems to be the generation that values creativity and believes it is a critical skill. Eighty-nine percent of students and 93 percent of teachers say they believe creativity is going to play an integral role in solving today’s global challenges. Eighty-five percent of students and 91 percent of teachers say they believe being creative will be essential to Gen Z’s success.

The top 5 soft skills are:
1. Creativity
2. Persuasion
3. Collaboration
4. Adaptability
5. Emotional intelligence

The top 10 hard skills are:
1. Blockchain
2. Cloud computing
3. Analytical reasoning
4. Artificial intelligence
5. UX design
6. Business analysis
7. Affiliate marketing
8. Sales
9. Scientific computing
10. Video production

The most-desired hard skills can change in an instant–and this year’s top hard skill, blockchain, didn’t appear on last year’s list at all. Despite skepticism about standardized protocols and scalability, “companies seem to be saying that the potential is worth the gamble. Blockchain has become a line of business for a who’s who of the corporate world — IBM, Oracle, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft (LinkedIn’s parent company), Amazon, and American Express, to name just a few. Blockchain is now being used in industries ranging from shipping to healthcare, from farming and food safety to entertainment and gaming,” according to the LinkedIn analysis.

Emotional intelligence makes its first appearance on the list of soft skills, and for good reason–this “mix of self-awareness, self-regulation, social skill, empathy, and motivation,” along with the ability to use emotional information to positively impact thinking and behavior, is critical.

Laura Ascione