soft skills

Training new grads to beat out the bots

A recent survey illustrates the importance of soft skills in tomorrow’s job market

Identifying the skills new grads need…

While many discussions about the future of work focus on hard skills—teachable abilities that are specific to a particular job, such as computer programming or fluency in a foreign language—our survey results illustrate the importance of soft skills in tomorrow’s job market. Soft skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, are less tangible and harder to quantify than hard skills, but they are every bit as important for new graduates and other job seekers. Indeed, only 20 percent of managers say that hard skills alone are essential to workplace success; the majority say that workers need either soft skills (32 percent), or a combination of hard and soft skills (43 percent), to protect their jobs against encroaching technology. Unfortunately, 40 percent of managers feel their current workers are lacking in both areas.

While managers are looking for improvements in skill levels across-the-board, they believe the two soft skills that will most clearly distinguish humans from robots are creative thinking and critical thinking. Other in-demand skills include communication, decision making, and negotiation skills. These are the abilities that new graduates should highlight or, if necessary, try to strengthen as they head out into the job market.

…and how they can get them

To improve both soft and hard skills, workers need training. Thirty-seven percent of managers in our survey say that internal training or retraining is the most effective way to provide workers with the skills they need to stay employed; continuing education ranks second, at 26 percent. While the need for training and continued learning is clear cut, managers are less clear about who bears the responsibility for providing skills training. About a quarter (27 percent) believe that training is primarily the responsibility of employees, while just 20 percent believe it is primarily the employer’s responsibility. Fifty percent say that skill building is a joint responsibility, shared equally by employees and employers alike

For new graduates, the central takeaway from these findings should be obvious. You need to keep developing your soft and hard skills throughout your career. If your employer won’t help you do that, you must take it upon yourself to find the skills training you need. Your education, after all, does not end at graduation: It’s a lifelong process of continuous improvement that will make you not just a better employee, but a better person.

Plus, it will keep the bots from messing with your job.

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