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Why Soft Skills are Essential in the Workplace, Especially in Asia

The onset of the fourth industrial revolution is upon us!

This revolution will see the emergence of broad themes such as supercomputers, intelligent robotics and self-driven cars. As we head into the future, soft skills in an individual are more important now than ever.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are characteristics that range from common sense to interpersonal, social and communication skills, telling a lot about a person’s character.

These skills are also essential for relationship building, which are quite strikingly lacking in the workplace nowadays.

With many foreign workers in Asia and the rise in IT jobs, soft skill development is more critical than ever before.

As much as employers can find people with the right hard skills, it is often difficult to find people with the right soft skills. As globalisation increases, soft skills help transcend language and culture barriers. One then learns to empathise and understand their colleagues and customers better.

Importance of soft skills from an Asian perspective

Traditionally the Asian workplace has always had a bureaucratic hierarchy structure with power being at the top and getting lesser to the bottom.

The strong survive. The weak perish.

However, Asian culture also favours labour rights over the west’s predominant “hire and fire” culture. Given the level of respect, empathy and traditions surrounding the power imbalance, honing soft skills are fundamental in this transitional era.

One of Deloitte‘s most pressing statistics is that 78% of the employers in Southeast Asia see the development of soft skills as an important one. Still, only 23% feel the need to address it.

Hence there is a severe gap in the business place, particularly in the Asian workplace concerning soft skill development.

A study carried out by Skill Report shows an increase in globalisation, digitisation and industries amalgamating into one giant conglomerate. Employees are now having to rely more on their soft skills than the traditionally necessary hard skills to survive in the workplace.

Some of the most sought after soft skills in the workplace are problem-solving skills and people management. This is because hard skills can be trained over time and soft skills are difficult to master. Furthermore, upper management needs to be actively involved in skill training and development as well.

CEOs need to understand that to stay ahead of the competition. They need to keep their employees actively involved in making strategic decisions in the company.

The golden reasons to improve soft skills in the workplace

1. Improved critical thinking

As an employee, your hard skills will help you get the job done. However, to think creatively and make informed decisions, it is vital to be a critical thinker.

For this, you should have an innate ability to formulate a robust solution and device alternative solutions. Employers look for individuals that excel in troubleshooting, think out of the box, are resourceful and are continuously willing to learn and debate constructively on a given problem.

Critical thinking is also a stepping stone for innovative thinking and design, helping the individual stand out amongst others in the workplace.

2. Enhanced problem-solving skills

A workplace is never short of problems. It is part and parcel of a progressive environment. Being a problem solver without spending more resources is a good quality for an employee to have.

In fact, better and swifter decisions made in the ground level means the employee’s competency is high even at that level. An intuitive thinker irrespective of whether they have more implicit or explicit knowledge will make the right decision at the right time.

A problem solver is also someone who is highly emotionally intelligent. They help collaborate in work to find the best solution.

An employer looks for someone:

  • Capable of making an accurate and diplomatic decision
  • Is humble and patient enough to make difficult decisions
  • Is realistic and builds excellent synergy with the rest of the colleagues.
  • A good listener and has the right balance of influence and power to solve a problem within the organisation.

3. More dependable and flexible

A dependable employee is a trustworthy employee. Being reliable means, the organisation can look up to the individual as being responsible.

Especially if the stakes are high and involve sensitive financial and security issues, being dependable is a must.

A flexible employee is understanding and can fill in anyone’s shoes within the employee’s working capacity.

This means the employee can also work in interdepartmental activities and adapt to the unknown sooner than others. This also portrays to the employer that the individual is helpful, punctual and accountable in the way they conduct themselves and work.

4. Good interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills focus mainly on the ability of the employee to communicate with one another in the organisation. Employers focus on employees who are compatible and have a pleasing personality.

They want someone who is self-driven, charismatic yet firm in their work ethics. It is crucial to be a good listener and have a keen eye on non-verbal elements such as body language, posture, facial expressions, and the ability to judge the intangible.

Having a good sense of understanding of the situation with increased listening also means empathising with the colleagues and encouraging them to do better. These qualities definitely help to climb the leadership ladder as well. A person with good interpersonal skills is sincere, has a good sense of humour, negotiates well, and can be sociable with everyone in the organisation.

5. Leadership enhancement due to soft skill development in a workplace

A Study done by Reality Works on soft skills in managers found that 44% of managers reported a lack of leadership qualities. This can hurt their reputation and relationship with other colleagues in the workplace. Hence, it is important to note these golden opportunities that will positively impact the workplace due to increased application of soft skills in the workplace.

6. Increase in productivity

When a leader remains unfocused and lacks the skills to manage time and people, it results in a lack of workplace productivity.

This can also lead to:

  • Undermotivated employees
  • Conflicts and misunderstandings in the workplace
  • Some employees being overworked, resulting in stress and burnouts.
  • The underutilised staff will become social loafers and get paid irrespective of if the work is done or not.

Social loafing is a common phenomenon in an Asian workplace. Therefore a leader with the right soft skill will now have a laser focus on the job. Consequently, everyone contributes to the best of their ability to the workplace. The outcome not only results in greater productivity but faster completion of work as well.

7. Better organisational culture

When leaders have the right soft skills, they can turn a toxic work environment to a warm and friendly one.

This also helps leaders build a unique persona and become charismatic leaders who can lead by example.

This helps subordinates remain motivated and look up to an inspiring leader. This, in turn, reduces the employee turnover in the company. As a result, an enhanced organisational culture also reflects professionalism and builds the company’s image.

8. Greater agility

In this extremely competitive world, leaders need to be swift in making the right decision. This means having the right gut feeling to make decisions based on superior data. For this, the leader must be a good communicator and a better intermediator.

What gets measured gets done. A leader who can remain focused and keep employees on their toes meets the team’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

Soft skills also help make a company more agile and faster to respond to changing market conditions and customer requirements.

For example, proper communication will reduce confusion and help employees focus on what needs to be done.

9. Great teamwork

A leader with the right attitude and skills to handle a large group of people simultaneously will prioritise teamwork. By focusing on collaboration and empowering one another to do better, one can reach the desired outcomes and targets faster. This also helps solve problems more swiftly with better clarity. Like the great basketball player Michael Jordan says “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Hence leaders need to develop their emotional quotient over intelligence quotient.

Intelligence will get you the job. Emotional intelligence will help you sustain in the workplace.

Especially when climbing the corporate ladder, it is crucial to clearly identify and facilitate accordingly.

Exena Learning Hub and soft skill development

Like Charles Darwin, the great scientist mentioned: “It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

At Exena Learning Hub, we understand the importance of soft skill development and the latest and best practices globally. Unlearning and relearning is a lifelong process, and Exena Learning Hub is committed to being your facilitator in that purposeful journey. With the right guidance and education for upskilling, you and your company can go a long way!

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