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Google recently conducted an internal study to identify the most important qualities of its top employees. They found that expertise in science, technology, engineering and math came in eight. The characteristics that were deemed more important were: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others, being empathic and supportive to colleagues, thinking critically, solving problems, and being able to make connections across complex ideas. It might be surprising to some that a company that is renowned for its state-of-the-art technical ability actually values soft skills over hard skills, but it fits perfectly well in a much broader trend. A trend that is also recognized in the 2018 Workplace Learning Reportby LinkedIn.

Communication and cooperation skills

This emphasis on soft skills follows the digital revolution which we’re in the middle of. Technology accelerates, more and more tasks are being automated and the explosion of artificial intelligence applications is yet to happen. That makes it impossible to fathom what skills employees in 2030 will need to excel at their jobs. Let alone in 2050. But if you’re under the age of 40 today, you may still be part of the workforce in 2050. This asks for the development of soft skills, like adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and leadership. Skills that are transferable to any professional activity and skills that algorithms will struggle to master.

The difficulty with soft skills is that they are generally hard to acquire. It takes conscious effort, ongoing practice and serious commitment to improve. Developing soft skills requires new and innovative learning methods. A classical classroom training might be too one-off and an online educational video library might not stimulate the required commitment and practice.

The Google and LinkedIn studies show that corporate success is increasingly dependent on soft skills. And that dependency will keep growing, and will keep growing fast. That’s why companies should look for new digital learning tools that support quick takeaways, provide engaging content, lengthen the learning path and, most importantly, prove their worth in terms of lasting impact on business metrics and retention. Developing soft skills is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s the key to future success, for companies and employees alike.

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