5 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs Today

With these five soft skills, employees have a better chance to get ahead in today’s changing workplace.

In 2020, college graduates entering the workforce embarked into completely unexplored territory. We all did. A global health emergency challenged the nation to uproot the old ways of doing business to keep business alive, and we’re still reeling from the aftershocks. In the process, we took what we created and moved on to something new.

This next phase of work includes some degree of flexibility and a surge in digital communication, resulting in new challenges to building the strong company culture needed to keep and retain top employees. Now, record-level labor shortages are driving hiring managers to consider employees that demonstrate soft skills like communication and curiosity for opportunities in positions of leadership. According to the 2022 Job Market Outlook from ZipRecruiter, soft skills impact the hiring decisions for 93% of employers.

Here are the top five soft skills employees need to get ahead today.

1. Communication

With watercooler moments now a relic of the past, leaders have realized how much being together in an office facilitated communication. In May 2022, 6.1 million job postings on ZipRecruiter listed “communication skills” as a requirement, and 45% of LinkedIn Premium job posts mentioned them as having significant importance. In the modern, more dispersed workplace, building culture and engaging employees has become harder than ever, and people skilled in maintaining fluid, open and honest communication are in high demand.

Open and transparent communication between leadership and across teams promotes greater sharing of team knowledge. People learn to trust they have all the necessary tools, resources, and support to act with greater confidence and less fear, uncertainty, or doubt. When leaders model healthy communication, team members feel more comfortable approaching them for help and feedback. Employees with good communication skills are more engaged and feel empowered to make faster and more effective decisions.

2. Problem-solving

In its next phase, the modern work environment has come with the need to identify and address problems at greater speed to stay competitive, both in the products or services we offer and within our organization. At the same time, increased digital interactions have made problems much less visible. The more people on a team proactively searching for issues through the unique perspective of their company role, the better the company’s chances of finding more solutions.

According to McKinsey research, companies began prioritizing soft skills in 2020, including leadership, critical thinking, and decision-making, all required to solve emerging problems in the face of greater uncertainty. Someone with problem-solving skills sees problems as opportunities for improvement. When leaders clearly communicate values and align their team, problem-solving team members act with more autonomy and speed, using these values and organizational objectives as a guide. Problem-solving employees are engaged employees who are more likely to stay on a team.

3. Creativity

The shift to digital has made it easier for more competitors to enter a market, and the emergence of AI has made constant innovation a critical component of staying competitive. In 2020, the World Economic Forum predicted “creativity, originality, and initiative” would be among the top five in-demand skills by 2025. A 2023 Deloitte survey of executives found that brand respondents who were fully committed to encouraging creativity to flourish were likelier to lead high-growth companies.

Creative people stay curious and ask questions from others to learn from their insights and experiences and build upon their own. They respond to uncertainty with curiosity and the desire to learn and understand the new situation so they can continue to find ways to improve. There are a million and one ways to do any job better, and creative people explore as many of those ways as possible. Before starting a project, they brainstorm potential problems and devise ways to handle them before they happen.

4. Adaptability

Employees and consumers have higher expectations for employers and their companies, and staying open and adaptable to those changing demands has become critical. People with creativity and communication skills are also more likely to be adaptable. Willing to stay open to regular feedback and examining their areas for improvement, adaptable people can turn on a dime in the face of a new dynamic. They seek out what they need to continue to produce their best efforts and speak up to request the needed tools or training to get them there.

In a 2020 Harris Poll survey, 75% of companies said soft skills were more valuable than ever, and adaptability was among their top three. Adaptable leaders build relationships with each team member to gain insight into their strengths, shift responsibilities as needed, and use more of their team’s full range of talent. They model adaptability by engaging team members with questions about how leadership can improve their ability to do their job and better serve clients. Then, they take action by creating solutions and implementing changes.

5. Empathy

The pandemic and its aftermath caused devastating effects on our mental well-being. According to data spanning from 2019 to 2021, 73% of Americans believed more empathy would improve society, and a 2021 EY consulting survey found that 90% of employed Americans feel empathetic leadership is critical for employee satisfaction; 79% believe it reduces employee churn. According to McKinsey survey respondents, the number of companies addressing interpersonal and empathy skills in 2021 had doubled since the previous year.

Empathetic people facilitate communication, social gatherings, and relationship building for long-term company gains. They listen to team members and get to know their lives and their family. When everyone knows one another deeper, they feel more confident sharing ideas, resulting in more teamwork and greater innovation. By understanding the feelings of their team members, empathetic people can be more responsive to their communication styles and draw out the most productive contributions.

For people with communication and problem-solving skills, creativity, adaptability, and empathy, the changing workplace landscape can be an advantage. Bolstering soft skills through training can help build your resume and secure a job with more responsibility, learning opportunities, and higher pay, building the foundation for a more successful career.