Soft or Work Skill Development
We often hear talk about generic work skills, soft skills or digital related, but what are they and why are they important?
Hard skills may shortlist you for a job interview, but soft skills will have you selected, and may include the following which could also be described as personal attributes or selection criteria:
Communication, Organization, Teamwork, Punctuality, Critical Thinking, Social Skills, Creativity, Interpersonal Communication, Adaptability and Friendliness (Berger 2016).
According to Harvard Business Review article ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’:
Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think (Samuel 2016).
These could include goal focus, collaboration, communication, learning, troubleshooting and enjoyment.
Another view from traditional work of soft skills would designate planning workload, communication, reports, presentations, collecting/using information, note taking, data literacy, projects, ethics, problem solving, decision making, team work, meetings, negotiation, stress management and reviewing one’s own personal skills and development (Bingham and Drew 1999).
How does one develop these soft or work skills for work, community and life?
According to Open Colleges Australia the following tips are needed to teach students soft skills:
30 Tips to Teach Soft Skills
- Give students authentic choices about how they’re going to learn and be assessed.
- Provide a learning environment where trust, initiative, and taking risks are encouraged.
- Hold all students to the same high standards.
- Model perseverance by not giving up on students.
- Support students by helping them find their own way.
- Demonstrate alternate paths to content mastery.
- Teach to the whole person (not just the “student”).
- Treat your students as mature individuals, even when they aren’t following instructions.
- Talk about tailoring communication styles for different audiences.
- 1Build students’ interpersonal skills through an environment of humility and respect.
- Help students practise taking on different roles in different situations.
- Differentiate opportunities for personal growth and opportunities for team growth.
- Cultivate a sense of responsibility through meaningful and unique contribution.
- Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organise, and lead.
- Assess learning through interactive evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning.
- Challenge students’ reactions to new obstacles and situations.
- Emphasise that the same solution doesn’t necessarily work every time, even in the same situation.
- Incorporate exercises in delayed gratification in order to build persistence and grit.
- Start grading students on how well they listen to their peers.
- Discuss the importance of social-emotional intelligence in the real world.
- Design opportunities for students to build and demonstrate resilience.
- Make learning a personal experience, highlighting the way education shapes personality.
- Create opportunities for students to innovate, both on their own and in groups.
- Draw attention to the differences between online and in-person social etiquette.
- Reward students who are willing to admit they’re wrong.
- Recognise students who are committed to communicating ideas to others.
- Hold brainstorm sessions in which students list the possible uses for various soft skills.
- Help build motivation through principles of self-reliance (read: Emerson, Thoreau).
- Keep an open ear and encourage students to develop new thoughts and ideas they may have.
- Develop learning ability through greater awareness of individual learning processes (Briggs 2015).
Teaching, training or tutoring approaches to learning need to be centred upon student centred andragogy for adults not teacher centred pedagogy for children, see related article blog FLIPPED Model – Pedagogy or Andragogy in Higher Education Teaching Learning.
Berger, G 2016, Data Reveals The Most In-demand Soft Skills Among Candidates, LinkedIn Talent Blog, 30 August, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/most-indemand-soft-skills >
Bingham, R & Drew, S 1999, Key Work Skills, 1st edn, Gower Publishing Ltd., Aldershot.
Briggs, S 2015, 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students, Inform Ed – Open Colleges, 1 May, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-ways-to-cultivate-soft-skills-in-your-students >
Samuel, A 2016, ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, 5 February, viewed 21 March 2018,
< https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-soft-skills-of-great-digital-organizations >