Soft skills are making a difference in countless organizations, yet the attention being paid to them by organizations and their workers is minimal.
Just calling them soft skills seems to suggest that they are less important than technical skills. But soft skills like communication, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving are helping organizations in all sectors find new ways to perform well.
Looking for an example. How about T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, two companies outperforming big boys like Nordstrom and J.C. Penney because they are relying on employees’ instincts rather than big data to choose what they will sell?
Here’s how it is working. When retailers of all sizes are struggling, the corporate parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, TJI Cos., has reported an increase in same-store sales for 33 consecutive quarters (that’s more than eight years). TJI Cos. annual sales beat Nordstrom and J.C. Penney combined. The magic: The roughly 1,000 buyers for these companies are trained on what a good value would be, then allowed to practice — under the watchful eye of a mentor — for three years, according to a Wall Street Journal article. During that time they are taught what has sold in the past, the latest trends and other important factors in making good buying decisions so when they are on their own, they can draw on all that knowledge to properly interpret the current situation. The buyers then have the soft skills make on-the-spot decisions about what their customers will want to buy. The reliance on instinct allows the companies to move faster to get merchandise on its racks where customers can buy it.
Technical Skills Aren’t Enough
A successful organization looks different today than it did 20 or 30 years ago. Organizations need workers who have mastered the technical skills (the aptitudes, competencies and skills necessary oto perform work tasks). But they also need workers who have strong soft skills, those hard-to-teach skills that help you overcome the increasingly complex set of challenges. Innovation, lightning-fast communication and globalization are but a few of the challenges must of us face at work each day.
Getting Serious About Soft Skills
Serious Soft Skills, as the name implies, is dedicated to improving people’s understanding of the role of these soft skills, how they can be enhanced and what you can achieve with them.
We have been studying these matters in workplaces and in academia, and we have published and presented academic journal papers addressing some aspects of this topics. We continue to publish and present, seeking to better understand these areas and to present that information in ways that people can relate and react favorably. Look for additional research on soft skills, including a book in late 2017.
You also can access our podcasts and our video podcasts.
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Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham