No matter the industry, hiring a new employee for any position is challenging and costly. While every hiring manager seeks a well-rounded applicant with the perfect blend of hard and soft skills, finding that person is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, what happens if you have two solid candidates, but one has better hard skills and the other soft skills? Who would be your best hire?

It’s a lot to think about, and there’s a lot at stake. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average cost of a bad hire is up to 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. Not to mention, hiring a bad apple can spoil employee morale and job productivity.

A few years back, LinkedIn surveyed 291 hiring managers in the United States and, of those managers, 59% believed soft skills were hard to find. The survey also showed that 58% of hiring managers believed a lack of soft skills among candidates is “limiting their company’s productivity.”

Furthermore, the Stanford Research Institute International and Carnegie Melon Foundation conducted research that found 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.

The Better Candidate

As a result, the applicant with stronger soft skills is probably your best bet—only if that individual has the capacity and motivation to strengthen their hard skills. Hiring someone who doesn’t have the right personal attributes such as integrity, time management, attention to detail, adaptability and good communication can drag a team down and damage a company’s reputation.

Perhaps, Alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal said it best when he told the New York Times in its coverage of the 2018 Olympics, “There is almost no skill or ability you can have that is so good it allows you to ruin the social qualities of the team.” Part of the Norwegian men’s ski team, the strong bond between him and his teammates contributed to the country taking home more gold medals than any other that year.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Hard skills are often defined as formally taught technical skills. These skills generally follow a set of rules that stay the same no matter the business or industry. For example, there are generally accepted principles and processes that guide how programmers create code. However, soft skills are a mix of social skills, personality traits and emotional intelligence with rules that can vary based on company culture.

While there are debates on whether hard skills or soft skills carry more weight in the workplace, the reality is that both skill sets are necessary because they complement each other. Even in the most technical of fields, soft skills are essential to positive outcomes.

For instance, there’s more to being a successful machinist than operating a CNC machine safely and effectively. It’s also about being a good communicator and a respected team player. Not to mention, you can’t automate a soft skill, such as emotional intelligence, like you can a manufacturing process.

Many soft skills, such as communication, also fall under what Burning Glass Technologies defines as baseline skills. In its report titled “The Human Factor,” Burning Glass says communication skills are in high demand across nearly every occupation. In fact, the report lists communication skills as the #1 requested baseline skill for segments such as information technology, manufacturing and production and engineering.

Top Soft Skills

It’s difficult to say which soft skills are the most valuable because the role of every employee is different. There’s a good chance, however, these five are (or should be) a top priority for your company:

• Communication
• Teamwork
• Decision making
• Problem-solving
• Time management

Measuring Soft Skill Value

It’s easy for companies to pay less attention to an employee’s soft skills because they’re difficult to measure. For instance, you can’t run business reports based on communication effectiveness or problem-solving abilities in the workplace.

However, if you regularly engage with your employees, you can see how their communication and collaboration skills influence your company’s productivity and performance. Here are some other benefits of soft skills in the workplace:

• Employees with good time management skills are highly efficient.
• Teams with conflict resolutions skills collaborate better and reduce disruptions.
• Employees who can problem-solve can develop creative solutions for setbacks.


180 Skills Course Spotlight: Workplace Communication

Group communication is a soft skill.Our COM-1007 course touches on how communication in the workplace isn’t that different from communication at home. However, in the workplace, you’re more likely to encounter individuals who are different from you, so being respectful of each person is more important than ever for effective communication. More specifically, this course covers how to:

• Communicate across cultures and generations
• Communicate effectively in a group
• Communicate mistakes and address problems
• Communicate a sincere apology
• Communicate effectively with a defensive person

Soft Skills Training Opportunities

So, how can you improve the soft skills of your employees? It’s simple if you incorporate 180 Skills into your organization. It’s a great training tool for new hires and upskilling current employees at all levels of your organization.

Our comprehensive online content library features nearly 40 courses on soft skills development, including verbal, non-verbal and written communication, active listening, conflict management, teamwork, diversity, decision-making and time management. Delivered via an intuitive learning management system, you can have these courses up and running in less than a day.

If you’d like to learn more about our soft skills training and how it can help you build a better workforce, contact us today!