There’s been a lot of talk about soft skills recently, as the recruitment sector reassesses what will keep businesses competitive in the future. As increasing numbers of people gain a university education, hirers are frequently faced with duplicate CVs for positions. Soft skills are fast becoming touted as the differentiator when it comes to applicant selection. Not only this, as routine work becomes more automated, soft skills are the ‘human skills’ that robots can’t replicate. These attributes are less about technical skills and more about the ways in which people work and apply their knowledge. Soft skills are also closely linked with our innate personality traits, which can make them difficult to define and even more difficult to measure at interview. With increased demand, the contracting sector has never been more competitive, which means that contractors need to be aware that clients are on the lookout for something ‘extra’. Here are the top soft skills that everyone’s talking about in 2019.
Creativity comes in at the top as it’s the skill that’s in the greatest demand but the shortest supply. No longer confined to the artistic sectors, everyone wants a piece of the creative action. Creativity is what drives business forward with new ideas and approaches. It’s a rare commodity in the corporate world as most organisations operate according to set rules, processes and assumptions in order to ensure order and productivity. The problem is that this environment can also extinguish creativity, as it favours conformism and discourages curiosity and original thinking. Businesses across all sectors are slowly coming to the realisation that in order to innovate, they need to shake things up with people who see things differently. This is what’s known as ‘positive disruption’. Often thought of in terms of their technical skills, contractors are actually top candidates for creatives. This is because they aren’t part of the culture of any organisation and still retain a large degree of control over how they carry out their work. As independents they are constantly absorbing new information from many different sources, giving them unique and fresh perspectives.
Also referred to as ‘change management’, adaptability is a make-or-break soft skill in 2019. As organisations seek to innovate change, the business landscape will undergo many transformations. Businesses need to be agile and adaptable according to the market, and these are also the attributes required from workers. Apart from the continuous disruptive impact of AI, the very nature of how we work is changing, with more people working remotely or flexible hours. This will mean that people who are able to manage change constructively are at a huge advantage. Many people are resistant to changes in their environment or to new processes that challenge old ways of thinking. Those who are able to keep up with the market will be best placed to take advantage of opportunities. Again, contractors are already skilled adaptors as they frequently change their environment and role with each new project. Contractors must also juggle several skills at once, especially if they run their own limited company, and must find new solutions if things don’t go to plan.
- Communication skills
Communication covers a huge range of sub-skills, meaning that it can be broken down according to specific role requirements. Good communication isn’t just about the ability to write or speak eloquently, it’s about an awareness of the numerous ways in which we communicate, and the end objective we’re trying to achieve. These include powerful non-verbal communication, such as body language, voice modulation and touch. Not everyone excels at the same form of communication, for example, those with the ability to write well might be terrible at speaking in front of an audience. The ability to persuade people using a convincing and well-constructed argument, or through a narrative storytelling, are two particularly useful forms of communication that keep a clear objective in mind. Not only are these specific forms of communication playing an important role in sectors such as marketing, they’re also useful across sectors when it comes to the successful generation and implementation of ideas.
The ability to collaborate with others is powerful currency in the business world. People with the self-awareness to understand how the skills and experience of others can compliment their own abilities are highly sought after. In many ways, collaboration is the opposite of competitiveness, and requires the individual to think in terms of a bigger picture. Although we’re all taught to say that we’re team players at interview, for many people, especially those with a competitive mindset, this skill doesn’t come naturally. Collaboration requires emotional intelligence and diplomacy, which is why those with high empathy and intuition are often good at bringing people together, diffusing tension and resolving conflict.
- Time Management
Many soft skills are defined by being subtler and less quantifiable than ‘hard’ skills that can be measured. Time management is perhaps one of the exceptions to this rule. For contractors, the ability to manage their time effectively ensures that projects are completed on time and according to schedule. This is crucial as it affects the bottom line. While creativity, collaboration and communication are all valuable assets; they must be properly deployed in order to achieve results. Hours of creative musing can’t realistically be billed to the client, and must be placed within a timeframe where measurable goals can be worked towards.
Highlighting your soft skills and taking steps to develop them can land you the most lucrative contracts and the best chance of ongoing work. Read our article to find out about the top industries for contractors and the skills you need to work in them.
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