In your world of work, “hard skills” are technical procedures related to your core business; examples include the latest law, rules and regulations in your area of expertise, or industry. Ironically enough these ’hard’ skills are typically easy to observe, quantify and measure. They’re also generally easy to train, because most of the time it is actually just knowledge being taught. The facts one learns are generally right or wrong so there can be little scope for misunderstanding.
By contrast, “soft skills” (also called “people skills”) are typically hard to observe, quantify and measure. You can teach knowledge as we mentioned above, you can’t teach attitudes or mind-sets. As the last phrase suggests, when one has a set idea it is very difficult to change peoples’ minds.
So what is more important?
People skills are needed for everyday life as much as they’re needed for work. They have to do with how people relate to each other, communicating, listening, engaging in dialogue, giving feedback, cooperating as a team member, solving problems, contributing in meetings and resolving conflict. Leaders at all levels rely heavily on people skills, too: setting an example, teambuilding, facilitating meetings, encouraging innovation, solving problems, making decisions, planning, delegating, observing, instructing, coaching, encouraging and motivating.
When you look for new people to join your company, what are you focusing on?
I think it’s only when you’ve been at work a few years that you realise the hard skills are easy to learn, and it takes many a fall to learn the soft skills.