Coming To Terms: A Macro Perspective on The Importance of Soft Skills

Soft skills: They’re universal. Why is this so essential to understand and act upon as a boss or manager? Well, as you may have learned in my September 2016 article introducing you to the stress-averse workplace of the 21st century, our offices are now staffed with folks who are as generationally diverse as they are ethnically. This creates a workplace model that, unless it operates in a seamless fashion socially, is at risk of becoming toxic and unproductive. Soft skills are the magic ingredient to keep things running efficiently, but such skills are lacking in today’s office culture. What’s worse, leadership often doesn’t know what to do about it.

As I had mentioned in that previous article, companies, in trying to prepare for the future, have automated or outsourced many of the routine, task-like jobs. This has prompted them to focus on hiring those applicants with the most impressive specialized skills. The tradeoff is that these folks don’t always arrive with the greatest communication skills or EQ. And when employers don’t want to spend the resources to train their hires to develop these soft skills, that’s when stressors develop and office morale begins to come apart at the seams, dragging productivity down with it. That stated, the writing is on the wall: We can’t have it both ways.

The Tides of Change

There’s a new paradigm at play in today’s workplace, and it relates to the disconnect between traditional leadership and millennial employees. Many bosses are not tuned-into the generational traits that millennials bring with them to corporate life (different values and loyalties, the intent not to work as many hours as their parents did, the temptation to job-hop.) Others who are aware refuse to take these traits seriously, and instead of creatively adapting, are retaining the old “business as usual” tactic. Thirdly, there is a tendency for bosses to feel threatened by what they don’t understand about their younger direct reports, and thus find it easier to lead by fear than by empathy. Consider this Forbes article to put into perspective the strikingly misguided and anti-productive approaches managers often take when faced with such fears, and you might begin to understand why millennial reports choose to move on instead of move up.

Sustainability Means Just That

After all the evidence has been presented, and a number of veteran companies have revealed the secrets to their longevity, many younger companies are still reluctant to believe that a sustainable workplace is the workplace of the future. Clearly a company that considers their employees to be their most valuable assets needs to put its money where its mouth is. Has your firm made the shift toward sustainability? Just ask yourself the question, “Where do we allocate employees on our financial statements?”

The fact of the matter is, even those companies who intend to practice sustainability can find themselves unprepared to, or even pressured to hold off. With regard to the former, we often see folks in leadership positions who were promoted there without the support needed to acclimate to their new roles. The unsustainable result is career overwhelm, which trickles down to their reports, who get left hanging due to lack of communication. In terms of the latter, there may be other powerful players in the equation who don’t value long-term planning. For instance, equity partners can be reluctant to pony up the bucks to invest in their employees, since they feel there is no tangible evidence of ROI.

Predicaments like these are examples of what I call the “macro” approach to leadership, which is famous for working against a company’s bottom line. And as you may have reckoned, the “micro” approach has its evils as well, which we will explore in an upcoming article.

It’s Your Move

Taking the steps to reverse perilous management trends starting NOW is the only way to catch up with those companies who already have sustainable, loyalty-driven, minimally-stressed corporate models in place. Feeling the need to evolve but don’t know where to start? Bringing your employees’ soft skills to the next level and getting your company on track to compete in this rapidly-changing business culture is what we at DRIVEN specialize in. Learn more about our Private Client Services, and you may quickly become the next leader in your industry!