Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and 50+ Examples

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and 50+ Examples

Corey Bleich

🍿🍿 8 min. read

While hard skills are important, savvy companies know that excellent employees have another skill set that may be harder to cultivate: soft skills. Turns out, hard skills vs soft skills isn't an either/or proposition. It's a both/and package worth cultivating in potential and long-term employees alike.

What’s the difference between the two? Before you can write a job description or a resume, mentor team members, or design a learning program, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills. This guide will get you started, and will contain long lists of examples to structure your job searching, training, and more.

🔍 What you’ll find in this post

  • Soft skills vs. hard skills

What are soft skills?

  • Soft skills examples

What are hard skills?

  • Hard skills examples
  • Training for hard and soft skills

What is the difference between hard skills vs. soft skills?

Hard skills are easy to measure and define, while soft skills are a bit more nebulous. Hard skills are those talents and abilities that can be measured. They are usually specific to a particular job, and they can be learned through schooling or on-the-job training. Soft skills are less defined skills that often apply not only to one specific job but are universal. Some recruiters or HR personnel might define these vaguely as “people skills.” Think of empathy, creativity, adaptability, and collaboration.

Hard skills are often those you list on a resumé or the areas in which you hold certifications. Soft skills are those that help you build longer-lasting coworker and customer relationships. The importance of hard skills vs. soft skills should not be underestimated.

Soft skills vs hard skills stats

Hard skills and soft skills are both important in the workplace, but they represent different types of abilities that someone can bring the table. Some statistics and insights on the importance of both hard and soft skills in the workplace include:

  • Soft skills are highly valued by employers, with 93% of employers stating that soft skills are either an essential or very important factor in hiring decisions
  • Employers are increasingly seeking employees with soft skills such as dependability, teamwork/collaboration, problem-solving, and flexibility
  • According to LinkedIn's Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills , the top five hard skills in demand in 2023 were software development, SQL, finance, Python, and Java
  • The top five soft skills in demand were management, communication, customer service, leadership, and sales.

While hard skills are important for performing specific responsibilities, soft skills are highly valued by employers and can have a significant impact on a person's ability to work effectively in a team, communicate with others, and adapt to new situations. As we’ll discuss later, it’s essential to develop and maintain a balance between the two types of skills to excel.

Soft skills are skills and abilities that are much harder to measure and a bit fuzzier to define. In general, these are interpersonal skills that help people get along with each other and communicate and collaborate effectively. They relate to how someone interacts with others, manages their time, and handles their emotions and actions.

Challenging to train explicitly, soft skills include things like character, ability to work on a team, and overall understanding of and participation in your company culture. Employees just entering the workforce or transitioning to a new career may struggle with soft skills, especially as they relate to fellow employees.

Reviewing different examples of soft skills can help you better understand this concept, too.

Watch on YouTube: "What are Soft Skills?"

What are the most common soft skills examples?

Soft skills are often interpersonal skills that can be difficult to train for. They can include the following examples:

Why are soft skills important to train for?

Of these skills, emotional intelligence is arguably the hardest to teach. This includes a person’s ability to empathize with others, regulate their own behavior, and develop self-awareness. Emotional intelligence also indicates a level of intrinsic motivation that contributes to a strong work ethic.

However, developing soft skills matters. A Carnegie Mellon Foundation study found that 75% of long-term job success depends on the level of soft skills employees had. Another LinkedIn study found that 57% of employers value soft skills more than hard skills when making new hire decisions.

Put simply, you can be a certified expert in your field, but that won’t matter much if you just can’t work with your fellow employees, customers, leadership, and others.

👉Learn more: Find our full guide on how to train employees on soft skills

Hard skills are much easier to quantify and measure. These are things that employees are specifically trained for, like a plumber who learns to fix a leaky faucet or a nurse learning to draw blood.

Through specific instruction, on-the-job training , and trial-and-error, hard skills form the backbone of the job.

Watch on YouTube: "What are Hard Skills?"

What are the most common hard skills examples?

For new employees with little practical experience or track record, hard skills can be measured in terms of test scores and recent degrees or certifications. Hard skills examples include:

But truly, this list of hard skills examples is as long as the number of different professions in the world!

Why are hard skills important to train for?

The importance of hard skills is that they establish the backbone of the services your business provides or the products it creates. You would not hire a heart surgeon without the hard skills to perform heart surgery, or someone to design a bridge who only had experience in retail. Hard skills training ensures that your employees are equipped to do good work in their field.

What’s the best approach to this type of training? The answer to that depends on your employees and what skills they need. Starting with a training needs analysis can help target specific hard skills, which can then help you decide which approach will work best.

You might consider eLearning options to train for some of these skills, especially mobile microlearning resources that are easy to reference back to. Some industries have also had great success with AR/VR learning , and others prefer to offer blended learning that includes both instructor-led and digital modules.

The goal is to offer hard skills training that is relevant, engaging, and supportive of the types of hard skills your employees need to do their job.

How to train for both hard skills and soft skills

Truly, the best way to train employees is not to pit soft skills vs. hard skills but to develop both in tandem. The good news is that many of the same tools used to train for hard skills can easily be modified to work on soft skills development.

This might be as simple as modifying training modules to be completed in teams, highlighting teambuilding and collaboration. You might also include time for reflection and refinement in each training session. This gives employees practice in analyzing what they did well and identifying their growing edges.

In addition to modifying your learning experiences to incorporate soft skills development, there are other ways to train employees for both hard and soft skills. One effective method is to use simulation-based training, which allows employees to practice both hard and soft skills in a safe and controlled environment. For example, if you're training employees in customer service, a simulation-based training program can provide realistic scenarios that allow them to practice both technical skills like using the company's CRM software and soft skills like empathy and active listening.

Another approach is to use coaching and mentoring to develop both hard and soft skills. Mentoring can provide employees with guidance and support to develop their soft skills, while coaching can help them improve their hard skills by providing feedback and guidance on specific tasks or projects.

Ultimately, the key to successfully training employees for both hard and soft skills is to take an integrated approach. By incorporating both hard and soft skills into your training program, you can develop well-rounded employees who can effectively navigate any challenges they may encounter in their jobs.

As you plan your training sessions for your new hires or long-term employees, don’t think hard skills vs. soft skills. EdgePoint Learning can help you find a training approach to both that works for what your employees need right now. Get in touch today to learn more .

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Hard skills versus soft skills and which to use on your resume

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Hard skills versus soft skills: What’s the difference?

Why you should develop both hard and soft skills, 5 soft skill examples worth perfecting, 5 hard skill examples worth learning, how to include hard and soft skills on a resume, gotta catch 'em all.

A confused client emails you asking for troubleshooting help. They can’t figure out why an extension they installed isn’t working on a webpage you developed. 

You write back that it’s a simple mistake, provide step-by-step instructions, and offer to jump on a quick call to walk through the problem together. Before you hit send, you check your spelling and make sure your directions are clear and concise. The client fixes the problem quickly. Everybody’s happy. 

Responding to a quick query is a seemingly mundane task. But in just a few lines of text, you’ve exercised several hard skills, like reading comprehension, programming knowledge, and written communication rules. And you’ve also showcased various soft skills, like empathy and dedication.

The proficiencies developed throughout your career are like a toolbox. And understanding the difference between hard skills versus soft skills can show you how each tool complements one another, leading to better productivity, efficiency, and career success.

Hard and soft skills differ in the way you learn, use, and adapt them. 

Hard skills are technical proficiencies you acquire through training and hands-on experience. A few examples include coding language familiarity, foreign language proficiency, and AI tool expertise. The learning process typically follows a monitorable step-by-step process most people can take on to acquire these skills. 

Soft skills are more personal and nuanced than hard skills, and people’s personality types often influence the ones that come naturally to them. Some soft skill examples include emotional regulation , problem-solving , and conflict resolution .

Acquiring a soft skill is more nuanced than a hard skill because it’s much more personal. Learning to manage your time better will look very different from person to person, whereas understanding how to use a new workplace collaboration tool will follow the same steps for nearly every employee.

According to a LinkedIn hiring trends analysis, hard skills grab a potential employer’s interest, but soft skills seal the deal . 

Most employers require you to have specific skill sets, education, or certifications. If you're a marketing professional — like a market research analyst — you likely need to understand certain statistical software and quantitative and qualitative research methods. But a hiring manager also wants to know the attitude and work ethic you’ll contribute to the team. While they might skim your qualifications section to ensure you have specific technical proficiencies, throughout the hiring process they’ll look for soft skills like critical thinking , creativity , and teamwork . 

Your hard and soft skills work in tandem. Highly developed hard skills mean you can get the job done, and complementary soft skills mean your coworkers enjoy working with you. Let’s explore some common industry-specific hard skills and complementary soft skills:

Healthcare providers know how to examine, diagnose, and treat patients, and they develop these hard skills through extensive education, on-site training, and continued learning. But one of the most important proficiencies in healthcare is empathy , a soft skill that helps healthcare professionals build trust , communicate difficult information, and treat patients effectively. 

A successful project manager is proficient in hard skills like budgeting, risk assessment, and quality assurance, which they’ve acquired through formal education and industry experience. But projects don’t always go to plan — unexpected challenges, changes, and conflicts often create roadblocks — so project managers must use their conflict management , resourcefulness, and adaptability soft skills to keep everyone on track. 

An independent worker’s soft skills are often especially important to recruiters. Whether you studied economics , journalism , or marketing, a hiring manager will want to know you have the skills to work independently. Dependability, self-motivation , and effective communication are all skills that will keep you on track without the oversight of a traditional work environment.


While some soft skills will come more naturally to you depending on your personality type and upbringing, you can fine-tune anything from this soft skills list to help you develop professionally: 

1. Problem-solving: When a setback arises at work, your ability to find an effective solution is key. This shows initiative and that you’re not simply stuck on how frustrated you are by the setback but are rather pivoting quickly to effectively problem solve. You’ll leverage other soft skills as well during this practice, like critical thinking, creativity, and resilience.

2. Time management: Hitting deadlines and maximizing productivity requires you to effectively prioritize tasks . You also show your team you’re reliable, possess a strong work ethic , and don’t require micromanagement when you manage your time well .

3. Communication skills: Your ability to express information coherently and effectively can help you build trusting professional relationships, establish clear work expectations , and encourage collaboration . You’ll also minimize miscommunications that can cause your employer time and money.

4. Active listening: It’s easy to let notifications or a noisy office distract you . But practicing active listening techniques — like paraphrasing what someone says and leaning in — can help you offer your full attention to your conversation partner. And attending to verbal and nonverbal cues demonstrates empathy and facilitates more meaningful conversations — and over time, deeper relationships .


5. Decision-making: A study of stock investors showed that the most effective decision-maker combined a mixture of critical thinking and self-awareness . Participants who could assess options, weigh the pros and cons, and use reason without sacrificing their emotions performed higher. You can use this knowledge to improve your decision-making style and make better choices .

Since hard skills will likely capture a hiring manager’s attention, upskilling or re-skilling based on your industry’s standards is a great way to stay competitive. Here’s a list of hard skills to consider:

Office software: According to O*NET Online, Microsoft Excel proficiency is the most in-demand technical skill , with other Microsoft Office Suite software like Powerpoint, Outlook, and Word following closely after.

Programming languages: The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects computer and information technology occupations to grow by 15% through 2031 , which is faster than average. Proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, and HTML can help you enter fields such as web design and software development. 

Search engine optimization (SEO): People increasingly depend on online spaces for shopping and information, which leaves digital marketing professionals in a strong position for job growth. But optimizing web content to improve search engine rankings and create organic leads is a marketable skill, regardless of your industry. 

Data analysis: Collecting and interpreting data using statistical techniques and tools can provide meaningful insights that inform impactful leadership decisions. Learn to use the most common data acquisition and analysis programs in your industry. Human resource specialists may use Tableau, for example, and an accountant might prefer Excel.

Social media: More than 90% of US businesses invest in social media marketing . Know-how about social media trends, algorithms, and audience engagement can help you build a company's brand awareness and engage target consumers, whether you’re a freelance graphic designer or social media manager.


If hiring managers pay attention to hard and soft skills, how should you list skills on a resume ? Here are a few tips to make your resume stand out :

Identify job-specific skills: Carefully examine the job description and identify the hard skills required to excel. Include these competencies and other industry-relevant items in a bulleted qualifications section. 

Showcase soft skills during the hiring process: Emphasize how you used soft skills to achieve results in your resume’s work experience section and during your interview. Imagine each sentence as a short story with a verb, skill, and result. A software developer might say, “I leveraged creative thinking, teamwork, and resourcefulness to consistently deliver projects ahead of schedule.” 

Use metrics: Whenever possible, use numbers to clearly demonstrate your value to recruiters or hiring managers . A management consultant might say, “My project management and people skills contributed to a 45% increase in productivity and 10% more completed sales.” 

Be consistent: A ll the documentation you provide to a potential employer should argue your case as the best candidate. Double-check for conflicting or outdated information and sync your highlights on your cover letter , LinkedIn profile , and other materials. 

Go the extra mile: Research the company’s purpose, mission, and vision , and pay attention to core values that aren’t in the job posting. If a branding agency’s core pillars are collaboration , transparency, and attention to detail , you might consider mimicking those values or including similar soft skills, like teamwork and due diligence. And always have accurate examples to back these skills up in an interview. 

You can probably name several hard skills you use in your daily work, and the way you complete this work showcases your soft skills. Now that you understand the difference between hard skills versus soft skills, take the time to examine the ways they complement one another. 

Figuring out where you naturally excel — whether it’s writing a really good professional email or seeing a project through without giving up — will also illuminate where you can improve. And all of this learning helps you develop professionally to enjoy more fulfilling and meaningful work.

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Allaya Cooks-Campbell

With over 15 years of content experience, Allaya Cooks Campbell has written for outlets such as ScaryMommy, HRzone, and HuffPost. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and is a certified yoga instructor as well as a certified Integrative Wellness & Life Coach. Allaya is passionate about whole-person wellness, yoga, and mental health.

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Hard skills vs. Soft skills

problem solving hard or soft skills

Ivan Andreev

Demand Generation & Capture Strategist, Valamis

November 27, 2021 · updated April 25, 2024

6 minute read

When seeking new recruits or considering internal promotions, it’s essential to identify the specific skills required for each role. Some of these skills are innate, while others may require formal training.

Hard skills should be outlined in the role specification, detailing the technical competencies needed. Soft skills, which encompass interpersonal and emotional intelligence, should be included in the person specification.

By reading this guide, you will gain the ability to clearly distinguish between the hard and soft skills necessary for your open positions. Additionally, this insight will prove invaluable for individuals aiming to enhance their resumes and effectively showcase their top skills.

What are hard skills?

What are soft skills, what’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills, list of hard and soft skills, how to develop hard and soft skills.

Hard skills vs soft skills: what is the difference?

Hard skills are specific competencies, skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to perform a specific task or role. They can be learned through education and professional development. Usually, they are technical (but not always) and easily measurable.

Hard skills can be evidenced through educational certificates or practical demonstrations.

Take software development, for instance. It requires knowledge of programming languages, primarily aimed at writing computer programs. The proficiency level in this skill is readily measurable.

Consider the field of design as another example. While it varies—ranging from interior to web design—the fundamental requirement is a specific skill set tailored to perform precise tasks.

Knowledge of the Microsoft Suite is yet another hard skill. Learning to proficiently use tools like Microsoft Word and Excel is often crucial for specific job functions.

Therefore, each role demands a unique set of hard skills essential for performing designated tasks effectively.

Soft skills are personality traits, social competencies and skills, knowledge, and abilities used to perform interpersonal activities and unique tasks. Sometimes they are also called human skills.

Soft skills often stem from your inherent personality traits and social abilities, though they can be honed through practice and professional development.

Measuring soft skills, especially when you’re hiring new employees, can be tricky due to the limited information available. You really get to know a person’s soft skills through personal interactions.

While there are techniques and tests aimed at assessing these skills, be aware that their results can be imprecise and not always reflective of true ability. It’s only in real-life situations that you can accurately see how well someone handles these areas.

There are certain soft skills you’d likely want all your team members to possess, such as punctuality and the ability to collaborate effectively. Other skills, like leadership, communication, strategic thinking, and problem-solving, might be crucial for specific roles.

Soft skills don’t come certified, but you’ll recognize them as you work with someone. Natural leaders will instinctively take charge and guide others, while reliable timekeepers consistently show up on time or inform you ahead of any delays.

problem solving hard or soft skills

Skills matrix template

Efficiently assess, manage, and maximize your team’s potential and streamline your workflow.

The key difference lies in the nature of soft skills, which are closely intertwined with an individual’s personality and aren’t always teachable.

While you can enroll your team members in courses to enhance leadership, communication, and other soft skills, there’s always an innate aspect to consider. Some people are naturally more inclined to possess strong leadership qualities than others.

Hard skills, on the other hand, are rooted in what people learn. These skills are task-specific and easier to teach. You can send people to development courses to acquire new hard skills or to refine existing ones.

As careers progress, people often need to adapt and enhance their skill sets, especially when stepping into leadership roles. They’ll need practical knowledge specific to their positions along with interpersonal skills that allow them to excel.

It’s important to note that your best employees might not necessarily excel in both soft and hard skills. While versatility is a bonus, not all roles demand expertise in both areas.

There are many hard and soft skills, so that we will list only a few.

Now that you know the difference between soft and hard skills, it’s time to analyze which ones need to be added to your organization. And what to do next?

You can check our article about employee development methods , we have mentioned what methods work best for different skills sets and particular skills.

It will help you find ways to train your employees and improve your own skills.

Regarding leadership skills check our leadership development plan guide because it is a unique skill set and it requires specific training.

One way to map, manage, and track the required skills and skill gaps of your employees is to use a skills matrix .

Skills gab analysis cover

How to conduct a skills gap analysis and what to do next

Start building your foundation for strategic workforce development.

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problem solving hard or soft skills

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  • The difference between hard skills and ...

The difference between hard skills and soft skills: Examples from 14 Asana team members

Julia Martins contributor headshot

What if we told you that you have a ton of skills in the workplace that you might not even realize are strengths? Hard to believe, right? 

That’s exactly what hard and soft skills are. These skills—which are so critical in the workplace—are things you haven’t even realized you’ve learned. You might think you just have a strong work ethic, but that’s actually a soft skill you’ve built over time. Or you might take for granted that you can use a customized tool at work with ease—but that’s a hard skill you’ve spent time and energy developing. 

Together, hard skills and soft skills represent the talents you bring to the table. These skill sets are what make you an effective team member—and they’re definitely things that you should be including on your resume. 

Whether you’re just learning about hard and soft skills or you want to figure out which skill to develop next, this article is for you. Get a list of hard and soft skills, then dive into examples of how 14 Asana team members use hard and soft skills in the workplace.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are skills you can be specifically trained for. These are more traditional skills—in fact, when you think of workplace skills, you’re likely thinking of hard skills. These skills are often quantifiable traits you’ve actively worked to learn and improve. Hard skills can sometimes be job-specific depending on the role or level you’re in.

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Examples of hard skills

The hard skills you develop will depend on your role, tenure, and job. You can typically find them as required skills listed in a role’s job description. There are an unlimited number of hard skills, but here are a few examples of hard skills in different departments:

Hard skills in marketing and design:

Creative brief development

Writing and editing

Graphic design

Marketing campaign management

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Hard skills in engineering:

Cloud computing

Machine learning

Programming languages (Javascript, Java, C++, HTML, Python)

Server maintenance

Hard skills in strategy:

Business analytics

Data analysis

Data visualization

Data science

Risk analysis

Hard skills in product development: 

Go to market (GTM) strategy

Market research

User research

Hard skills in finance:


Expense reporting


Ledger management

Hard skills in IT:

Information management

Network security

Service level agreements (SLAs)

General hard skills:

Proficiency in more than one language

Project management

Role-specific tools, like Google Analytics or Salesforce

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that describe how you work and interact with others. You might not even think of soft skills as skills you’ve developed, because these are often things we pick up on the job or learn through day-to-day interactions with others, like being a team player or a good communicator. Soft skills are also sometimes compared to personality traits, rather than skills—but thinking this way misses the big picture. In fact, these skills are the foundation of how you collaborate and succeed in a work environment. 

Examples of soft skills



Attention to detail


Communication skills

Conflict resolution

Emotional intelligence



People skills




Strategic thinking

Time management

The difference between hard skills and soft skills

Both hard skills and soft skills are important in the workplace. Hard skills represent things you’ve learned to do or use—like tools, technologies, or proficiencies. Soft skills are interpersonal traits you have developed over time—like effective communication, dependability, or generosity. Together, hard and soft skills are the tools in your workplace toolkit that help you accomplish your goals.

How to use hard and soft skills to be a more effective teammate

Hard skills and soft skills make up the knowledge you bring to the team. These skills are a critical part of how you work—both on your own work and with other people. 

But sometimes, it can be hard to understand how these skills translate from a resume or cover letter into a real work environment. So we interviewed 14 Asana team members to learn how they use various skills in the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:

Soft skill: Strategic thinking skills

Benson Perry, Product Manager at Asana: “As a product manager, I often have to prioritize between a bunch of features that all solve different problems for our users. I leverage my strategic thinking skills to help make these decisions in thoughtful and clear ways. Then, I include notes and context before I communicate the decision to the rest of my team so that we're all on the same page. Being able to revisit the context in these decisions really helps when we're looking back or when someone new joins the team.”

Hard skill: Data science

Annie Lee, Engineering Manager at Asana: “As an engineer, there's always more to build than what we have time for so we need to be strategic about how we spend our time. Using data to guide our decision-making helps ensure we're always focused on the highest-impact work. Whether we use North Star metrics to help guide our higher level roadmap prioritization or look at aggregate data trends to understand how customers are using our features, data is a core part of everything we do.”

Soft skill: Organization

Michael A. Armstrong, Social Impact Program Manager at Asana: “Organization, for me, is all about the small victories in the pursuit of broader milestones. When I’m organized, I’m able to unlock opportunities and do more impactful work in the future, while grounding and centering me to the progress I need to feel I'm making each day.

Being organized helps me identify the 4-5 critical tasks I need to accomplish each day to deliver on my promises and ensure my work moves forward. Having targeted, daily micro-goals helps me continue moving forward intentionally and strategically. My goals help me stay organized and focused on my daily work—which is especially helpful against the onslaught and constant pull of emails, ad-hoc tasks, and requests that I know will come my way. While those tasks could be important, staying organized helps me define and understand my daily goals so I don’t lose any forward momentum.”

Hard skill: Creative brief development

Michael Chen, Product Marketing Manager at Asana: “The creative team is one of the product marketing team's closest partners and the content we produce is instrumental to a successful product launch. The creative brief is often a first step in sharing our launch needs with the creative team’s writers and designers. 

It's important for me to complete briefs in a way that is specific in defining the strategic vision, messaging, and intended audience—the core competencies we focus on in the product marketing team. But at the same time, my creative brief also needs to allow for input on how the work should ultimately be brought to life since that’s the creative team’s superpower. A good creative brief is the start of a new partnership—and a strong, collaborative start often leads to the best output.”

Soft skill: Collaboration

Scott Lonardo, Product and Marketing Counsel at Asana: “To me, communication is the key to collaboration. That includes being direct and open with your input as well as being an active listener when others are presenting their viewpoints. Keeping an open mind and not being tied to a certain position allows everyone on the team to consider all input objectively and arrive at the most practical and efficient solution.”

Hard skill: UX design

Leah Rader, UXR Manager at Asana: “As a UX researcher, it's a core part of my job to understand our customers' experience and weave that into product decisions and business impact conversations. The UX skill I use the most is understanding my audience. When I can correctly identify co-workers' needs, priorities, and motivations, I can ensure I’m communicating and presenting research in a way that works best for them.”

Soft skill: Empathy

Liliana Blanco, Inclusion and Belonging Program Manager at Asana: “As someone who thinks deeply about belonging and inclusion at Asana , empathy is an indispensable part of my work. Building awareness of the nuanced experiences and interpretations of others' lived experiences is how we build cultural competence. This work starts with empathy. 

When it comes to working across cultures, it is essential not to be guided by the golden rule (treat others how you want to be treated) but by the platinum rule (treats others how they want to be treated). Empathy is how we can break ourselves out of our entrained ways of thinking and adapt and integrate other worldviews. By empowering Asanas to lean into empathy, we will enable a more robust culture of belonging at Asana.”

Soft skill: Leadership skills

Richard Yee, Engineering Manager at Asana: “For me, leadership is really about opportunities. Opportunities for the people I work with, the organization we work at, the customers we serve, and the communities we live in. It's recognizing and taking action on these great opportunities that present themselves in sometimes very subtle ways.

As a leader, I can bring brilliant people together to accomplish the amazing in a variety of everyday situations, like:

Celebrating our happiness while rewarding those who made it happen. 

Supporting each other when surprises come up or when we find ourselves in a place we don't want to be. 

Inspiring ourselves to grow while retrospecting on our successes and our failures. 

Collaborating on a mission, vision, and strategy we are excited about achieving. 

Creating a safe space to experiment, take calculated risks, and share thoughts transparently. 

Bringing order to chaos and prioritizing what's most important and letting go of the rest.”

Hard skill: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Calvin Lam, SEO Manager: “SEO is really a culmination of a variety of skills. On a typical day, I could be digging into numbers and data like keyword rankings, site traffic, and competitive site gaps to understand what we need to prioritize in our backlog. You can also find me connecting with our partners like writers, designers, or engineers to communicate our search optimization strategy and align on goals. Executing an SEO program requires jumping between various work styles and I love that I get to hone my skills every day.”

Soft skill: Time management skills

Maggie Kuo, Digital Marketing Project Manager at Asana: “As a digital marketing project manager, I use my time management skills to get strategic landing pages out the door for Asana’s big launch moments, on time and on budget. 

There are five main ingredients to successful time management:

Working with stakeholders to align on the scope of a project .

Figuring out what needs to be done by when and whether any tasks can be done in parallel.

Getting the cross-functional team’s buy-in on the project plan.

Delegating tasks to the right teams.

Regularly communicating with project stakeholders to keep things on track.

Asana makes it easy for me to accomplish all five in one place!”

Hard skill: Proficiency in more than one language

María, Localization Project Manager at Asana: “I am part of the localization team, and daily communication with language experts from all over the world is key to the success of our projects. There are certain language nuances that can only be grasped when you are familiar with more than one language. 

My proficiency in more than one language has helped me overcome language barriers, because I’m able to hold meetings in both Spanish and English. Being bilingual has also given me a better understanding of the importance of cross-cultural communication as I can relate with the international members of our teams and also with clients who don't speak English as their first language.”

Soft skill: Accountability

Sam Ayoko, System Engineer at Asana: “I work on a variety of projects and tasks outside of the Help Desk. In order to remain accountable, I personally attempt to leave an update on every task that is due on that day. I want my collaborators to understand where I’m allocating my time, so I’ll also mark things as complete when I can, or defer work I can’t get to right now. Asana makes it easy to visualize my workday so I can map out how to allocate my time and remain accountable.”

Developing your project management skills

One of the most important skill areas you can develop are your project management skills . These are a mixture of hard, soft, and technical skills—which represent your proficiency in specific tools or softwares. Here are a few of the skills you can develop in project management:

Hard project management skills:

Project planning

Project roadmapping

Project kickoffs

Soft project management skills:

Team collaboration

Workplace communication

Technical project management skills:

Proficiency with different types of visual project management , like Gantt charts and Kanban boards

Workload management

Project portfolio management

Building your skill set

Like all good things, developing your skill set takes time. Some of these skills come with work experience—others may be things you’re already proficient in. You may even have skills that you didn’t even think of as specialized skills until now. 

It can be intimidating to look at a skills list, but remember to take it one at a time. When in doubt, pick a new skill to learn and focus on developing that skill set for a while. If you’re ready to get started, learn how to build your status reporting , remote collaboration , or constructive criticism skills today.

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Hard skills vs. soft skills: What they are and why both matter

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problem solving hard or soft skills

In business and management, a common taxonomy divides skills into “hard skills” and “soft skills.” This taxonomy originated in the 1970s to categorize different abilities and has since become widely used in hiring, training and evaluating employees. Varying types of skills are essential to professional success, but understanding the difference between hard and soft skills can be particularly helpful for managers and leaders. 

Hard skills are technical abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks such as coding and equipment operation. Soft skills are interpersonal, social and emotional abilities related to how people interact, such as collaboration, leadership and problem-solving.  

The skills taxonomy is popular because it provides a simple framework for identifying strengths, gaps and development needs. It reminds managers that employees need hard skills to accomplish specific work and soft skills to collaborate and grow. Well-rounded teams have a mix of technical experts and relationship builders, with management that understands the difference between knowledge and skills. 

What are hard skills? 

Hard skills are the technical or specific abilities you can define, measure and learn. They’re often connected to a particular task or job and acquired through education, training programs, professional development , industry certifications and on-the-job experience. These skills are usually easy to quantify, so they can be listed on a resume or job description — or as outcomes for a course or learning program. 

Hard skills examples 

Your hard skills will vary depending on the nature of your job. Some common examples include: 

  • Computer programming : This is the ability to write, test, debug and maintain the source code of computer programs. This skill is crucial for roles in software development, web development and data analysis. 
  • Project management : This involves planning, executing and overseeing projects to ensure they are completed on time and within budget. This can translate to many industries and jobs. 
  • Data analysis : This is the ability to gather, model and visualize data to support decision-making processes. It’s essential in fields like marketing, finance and operations. 
  • Digital marketing : This involves promoting products or brands via digital channels. It’s important for marketing specialists, SEO experts and content creators. 

In every industry, certain hard and transferable skills can be valuable across different fields. It’s important to regularly assess the technical skills needed for a job and industry and prioritize developing them. 

What are soft skills? 

Soft, interpersonal or people skills are about how you interact with others. They’re not specific to a job or task and are trickier to measure than hard skills. But they’re crucial to building a community as well as establishing and maintaining client, customer and colleague relationships. 

Soft skills examples 

Not all soft skills are intuitive, but they are teachable and can be honed over time. Examples of soft skills include: 

  • Communication involves conveying information clearly and effectively. Good communication is essential in almost every job to ensure everyone is on the same page. 
  • Leadership is the ability to guide, inspire and influence others to achieve a common goal. It’s crucial for managers, team leaders and executives. 
  • Problem-solving involves identifying, analyzing and solving problems that arise in the workplace. It’s important for roles that require decision-making under pressure or innovation. 
  • Teamwork is the ability to work well with others to achieve a common goal. It’s necessary in any role that involves collaboration or team projects. 
  • Adaptability involves adjusting to new conditions or changes in the workplace. It’s crucial in today’s fast-paced work environments where change is constant. 
  • Time management is the ability to use time effectively and productively. It’s important for meeting deadlines and managing multiple tasks or projects. 
  • Emotional intelligence involves recognizing and understanding your own emotions and others’ emotions. It helps manage relationships, resolve conflicts and demonstrate empathy. 

Within your organization, specific soft skills may be highly valued. Some companies prioritize creativity and innovation, while others value empathy and emotional intelligence. Knowing — or helping to define — the soft skills your company values can help you support development in those areas. 

problem solving hard or soft skills

Why do both hard skills and soft skills matter? 

In professional development, the question whether hard or soft skills are more important can be debated. Some people argue that hard skills take the lead as they directly impact job performance. However, others believe that soft skills hold more value as they enable professionals to work effectively in teams and adapt to changes. 

However, both hard skills and soft skills can be crucial for success. They complement each other, and a balance of both is often necessary for a well-rounded professional profile. Even though one skill may be more apparent than the other in certain contexts, neglecting one can lead to a skills gap that may hamper productivity and efficiency. Therefore, it’s essential to assess both skills and proficiency when it comes to technical and non-technical abilities. 

The importance of hard skills  

Hard skills are what make someone qualified for a specific job. Employers usually look for them when hiring because they’re easily measurable and give a clear idea of a person’s capabilities. For example, a software developer needs hard skills like programming and debugging, a data analyst must be proficient in data modeling and visualization, and a graphic designer requires expertise in using design software. 

Without hard skills, performing specific job functions is challenging, and you may not be considered for certain roles. That said, hard skills alone are not enough to thrive in the workplace. 

The importance of soft skills 

Soft skills are crucial for employees to navigate and respond to situations. These skills, tied to personality traits and interpersonal interactions, foster a positive work environment. They are essential for effective collaboration, conflict resolution and team success. 

Moreover, soft skills like adaptability and problem-solving are increasingly important in today’s rapidly changing work landscape. They enable professionals to navigate through changes and come up with innovative solutions. 

Upskilling hard and soft skills 

As a hiring manager, training manager or someone in a leadership role, it’s crucial to grasp how you can help our employees improve their hard and soft skills. While these skills go hand in hand, the methods to develop them may vary. 

Soft skill development often involves: 

  • Workshops on communication skills : Employees learn about active listening, non-verbal communication cues and articulating thoughts clearly. 
  • Leadership seminars : These sessions could cover leadership styles, how to inspire and motivate teams and the importance of emotional intelligence. 
  • Role-playing scenarios : Employees might engage in mock negotiations to practice persuasion and conflict resolution skills. 
  • Group activities : Team-building exercises can help improve collaboration, while public speaking groups can also assist in developing presentation and speaking skills. 
  • On-the-job experiences : Mentorship programs where employees can learn time management, adaptability and stress management from seasoned colleagues 

Here are some examples of what hard skill development often involves: 

  • Technical courses : Specific courses on software development might cover programming languages, database management and system architecture. 
  • Certifications : Marketing professionals may take courses about Google Ads to prepare for certifications in Google Search and Display. 
  • Simulations and labs : Engineering students often work in laboratory work, applying physics and materials science to real-world problems. 
  • Apprenticeships : Electricians and plumbers typically go through apprenticeships where they acquire hands-on experience under the guidance of a master technician. 
  • Task-specific training : A graphic designer might practice using design software through specific assignments to create logos, website layouts or marketing materials, with each task designed to enhance proficiency in particular tools or techniques. 

Having a solid foundation is important, but applying that knowledge and practicing continuously is equally crucial. Therefore, it’s necessary to upskill your employees and understand what areas need improvement. 

How to improve soft skills 

The best approach to improving soft skills is to identify improvement areas and provide employees with opportunities to develop them. Here are some steps you can take: 

  • Conduct a skills assessment : Have your team members rate themselves on different soft skills and compare their ratings with yours. This exercise helps identify areas that need work. 
  • Incorporate soft skills into training programs : This can help employees understand the importance of these skills and how they can be applied in the workplace. 
  • Provide mentorship and coaching opportunities : Mentors or coaches can guide employees in developing advanced soft skills, providing personalized advice and feedback. 
  • Encourage participation in social and emotional learning opportunities : Activities that promote social interaction and emotional understanding can help employees improve their interpersonal skills. 

Keep in mind that soft skills are not something you can learn overnight. Give your team members time to practice and provide support along the way. 

How to improve hard skills 

Improving hard skills requires more structured and formal training, but there are still ways to make the process engaging and effective: 

  • Identify skill gaps through performance evaluations : Use performance evaluations to identify areas where employees may need additional training or development. 
  • Online courses : These offer flexibility and convenience, allowing employees to learn at their own pace. They may also provide certificates upon completion, adding value to an employee’s professional profile. 
  • In-person training sessions : These provide hands-on learning opportunities and allow for immediate feedback. They can be particularly effective for teaching technical skills that require direct practice. 
  • Combination of online and in-person training : A blended approach can provide comprehensive learning, combining the convenience of online education with the practicality of in-person training. 

Employers and managers who take the time to upskill their workforce help their employees reach their full potential and contribute to developing a highly skilled and efficient team.  

problem solving hard or soft skills

  • Tags hard skills , job skills , soft skills


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5 Essential Soft Skills to Develop in Any Job

  • Marlo Lyons

problem solving hard or soft skills

You don’t have to be in your dream job to advance your career.

If you’ve been laid off, you might find yourself working in a job outside your industry — for example, in transportation, health care, social assistance, accommodation, food service, etc. — to support yourself and your family. Even if that job’s responsibilities seem far afield from your chosen career path, this is an opportunity to develop or elevate skills that are needed in any industry. The author discusses five soft skills to focus on during your time outside your chosen field — teamwork, influencing without authority, effective communication, problem solving, and leadership — and how to position them on your resume.

Being laid off is a shock — even if you see it coming. If you’re eligible for severance pay, you might feel okay for a while, but there may come a point when you need to take a job outside of your profession to pay the bills (maybe in retail, food service, or hospitality). But landing a job outside of your industry can still move your career forward.

problem solving hard or soft skills

  • Marlo Lyons is a career, executive, and team coach, as well as the award-winning author of Wanted – A New Career: The Definitive Playbook for Transitioning to a New Career or Finding Your Dream Job . You can reach her at marlolyonscoaching.com .

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  • Develop your soft skills

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Developing your soft skills.

Soft skills are general skills that most employers look for when recruiting and are needed for most jobs. They're sometimes called transferable skills or employability skills by employers. We gain soft skills in life and work.

Find out about some of the soft skills employers look for and how to develop these skills.  

Examples of soft skills

Soft skills are more likely to be the kind you pick up through life experience, like how you:

  • communicate and work with others
  • make decisions
  • organise yourself and work
  • adapt to difficult situations

When you apply for a job you will need to show that you have the soft skills needed.


You can use communication skills in lots of different jobs. 

You use communication skills when:

  • writing emails
  • dealing with customers
  • reading instructions
  • helping and caring for people

Improve your communication

You can develop your communication skills by meeting new people and working with them.

  • join a sports team or creative arts club
  • volunteer somewhere you will talk to the public
  • practice making phone or video calls
  • take an online course , like on how to give work presentations

Leadership skills are not just for managers. Having leadership skills shows an employer that you can manage yourself and your workload.

You might have experience of using leadership skills like:

  • time management
  • conflict management
  • problem solving

Improve your leadership

To develop your leadership skills you could:

  • organise your schedule by creating a timetable
  • resolve conflict between friends or colleagues
  • motivate others: you could do this by organising activities, fun or educational like a quiz
  • teach skills to others: you could create instruction manuals or videos to share with family and friends

A good attitude is something a lot of employers look for. Employers look for people who see solutions, not problems.

You use positivity skills when you:

  • stay calm in stressful situations
  • look for answers to problems
  • have a can do attitude

Improve your positivity

To develop your positivity skills you could:

  • do a free course around personal growth and wellbeing
  • solve problems when things go wrong
  • network , whether for work or education, this shows a good attitude to learning and growing
  • be part of a team, like sports or creative arts to show you’re a team player


Being flexible shows that you're adaptable to different situations. It shows you can handle change and adapt at short notice.

You can be flexible by:

  • covering someone else's duties at work
  • working outside of your regular hours
  • changing what you're working on to fit with priorities

Improve your flexibility skills

To develop your flexibility skills you could:

  • rearrange your day because of a change in priorities
  • do more than one task at a time
  • do something outside of your comfort zone
  • do a challenge that stretches you
  • change your plans to help someone at short notice

Problem solving

Employers look for problem solving skills because it shows you can find problems and fix them.

You might use problem solving skills when:

  • dealing with a customer's problem
  • doing research to understand a situation
  • asking questions to help you understand the bigger picture

Improve your problem solving

To develop your problem solving skills you could:

  • play logic puzzles and games
  • keep a journal – looking at your mindset and how you look at solving problems
  • get involved in projects with others where you solve problems together
  • try brainstorming and developing plans for problems you have

If there are soft skills that you want to work on further, you could do some volunteering or work experience . 

You could also do some free online learning to help you gain more soft skills. This will give you examples you can use on your CV or in job interviews when you apply for jobs.

Related content

Identifying skills and upskilling

Volunteering advice

Getting the most out of online learning

How to write a CV

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  • Resume and Cover Letter
  • Administrative Assistant...

Administrative Assistant Skills: Add to Improve Your Resume!

7 min read · Updated on May 15, 2024

Ronda Suder

Here are top skills to include on an administrative assistant resume.

Administrative assistant skills are necessary in a variety of jobs. Beyond Administrative Assistant positions, they are pertinent in Office Manager, Office Assistant, Executive Assistant, and Receptionist roles. If you're aiming to land a job in any of these positions, it's vital that your resume reflects the most common and in-demand administrative skills for success.

Read on to learn more about the top administrative assistant skills, with tips on incorporating them into your resume. 

Top Administrative Assistant skills

Writing your resume with a target job in mind requires having a clear understanding of the job's skills and proficiencies. This section covers some of the most in-demand Administrative Assistant skills to consider for your resume. 


For those in Administrative Assistant-type roles, there are many moving parts, from scheduling and travel arrangements to answering client questions and filing critical documents. This aspect of the role requires excellent organizational skills to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. 

Examples of applying organizational skills at work include:

Creating an easy-to-understand filing system

Using software to track daily to-do items

Maintaining calendars and travel arrangements

Coordinating team meetings


Administrative Assistant-type professionals apply problem-solving skills daily. From helping a client get the information they need or a new hire access their new work accounts to assisting a manager in rearranging his schedule due to his forgetting about a personal appointment. It's about coming up with the answers and solutions you need quickly.

Additional examples of applying problem-solving skills at work include:

Developing a creative solution to a customer issue

Effectively communicating the details of problems with the team to work together on a solution

Brainstorming solutions to a problem with a coworker

Written communication

Though written communication falls under the bucket of communication – written and verbal – they're worth listing separately. One can be good at verbal communication and not as good at written communication, and vice versa. Though, both are vital in administrative roles.

Both written and verbal communication require you to interpret correspondence and effectively respond, requiring skills like active listening and critical thinking. Written communication , however, also requires technical skills, like being able to write in clear English with proper punctuation. From there, you also need to apply the hard skills of editing and proofreading before sharing your written work or communications. 

Examples of written communication at work include:

Proofing and editing an email response before sending it

Writing a CEO corporate communication to employees and sending it

Creating a presentation for monthly leadership meetings

Verbal communication

In administrative roles, you have to speak to all types of people, from coworkers and members of the leadership team to customers, clients, and other stakeholders. Therefore, verbal communication is an in-demand skill for anyone in this type of position. 

Examples of applying verbal communication skills in an admin role might look like:

Actively listening to a customer or client's concerns to help come to a resolution

Asking questions to clarify understanding of basic and complex topics

Communicating information to a range of people effectively

Attention to detail 

When you're juggling several items at once, like scheduling calendars, making travel arrangements, handling meeting and event planning, ordering supplies, and answering phones, you must be detail-oriented. After all, the last thing you want to have happen is a manager ending up at the wrong work destination due to an error in booking or a team of managers showing up for a meeting on the wrong day. 

Examples of applying attention to detail at work include:

 Effectively coordinating quarterly employee meetings

Coordinating travel arrangements for the leadership team to attend an out-of-state meeting

Capturing customer complaints in a spreadsheet

Administrative professionals don't work in a vacuum. Yes, many members of an organization rely on them for support. However, they also require other employees to collaborate and complete day-to-day tasks and projects. This means teamwork is necessary to move work forward. 

Here are some representations of teamwork at work:

Working together as a team vs. individually

Applying collaboration when coming up with solutions and innovations

Using empathy in an attempt to understand another's perspective

Additional Administrative Assistant skills & proficiencies

Here are additional Administrative Assistant skills to consider for your resume, broken down by hard and soft skills . 

Administrative Assistant hard skills

Microsoft Office 

Supply management

Inventory control

Office administration procedures

Telephone skills

Expense reporting

Travel arrangements

Data analysis

Technological proficiency 

Administrative Assistant soft skills


Discretion and judgment


Anticipates needs

Emotional intelligence


Critical thinking

Time management

How to develop Administrative Assistant skills

There are several ways you can improve your administrative skills to enhance your resume.

Consider any gaps or areas for improvement. First, take inventory and make a list of the skills you currently have and ones you feel you can improve upon. If there's a certain type of administrative position you'd like to land, refer to the job description and identify any skills gaps to add to your list, as well. 

Seek out training. Referring to your list of skills gaps and areas to improve, seek training to cover them. There is a lot of low-cost and free online training to help you upskill and increase your value as a candidate.

Get certified. Certifications are not only a great way to show you have the knowledge and skills required for the certification, but they also show you're invested in your professional development. Popular certification options for the admin field include:

Certified Executive Assistant

Administrative Assistant Certification

Certified Administrative Professional (CAP)

Microsoft Office Specialist Certification (MOS)

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

Ask for additional work. Another way to improve your skills or fill in gaps is to request additional projects at work. For example, if you're seeking to learn more about how to use Excel, ask for a project that involves using that software. 

How to add Administrative Assistant skills to your resume

When incorporating soft skills into your resume, it's more common to highlight them through accomplishments vs. list them. For example, consider the following accomplishment:

Spearheaded $10M project to install new computer systems to increase efficiency by 25% regarding data input and output

This statement indicates the person has leadership, problem-solving, innovation, and creativity soft skills without directly listing them. 

It's ok to list pertinent soft skills in your competencies or skills list if you feel it adds value. However, it's generally best to show you have them through your achievements vs. simply saying you have them by listing them.

Hard skills, on the other hand, are typically written out specifically. For example:

Applied advanced Microsoft Excel skills to create pivot tables to increase data analysis by 15%

Microsoft Excel and pivot tables are both hard skills in this accomplishment.

Where to incorporate Administrative Assistant skills

Administrative Assistant skills should be incorporated throughout your resume, including in your: 

Resume summary

Work experience section, core competencies or skills section.

Your resume summary is a succinct three to five sentence paragraph that sits at the top of your resume just below your contact information. It's a good place to speak to some pertinent soft skills or hard skills that you have related to the job description. 

Your Work Experience section will make up the bulk of your resume. It's the best section on your resume to highlight skills linked to achievements. 

It's a good idea to include a Core Competencies section just below your resume summary. Here, you'll include 9-12 (15 max) core competencies you have related to the job.  

Land your next Administrative Assistant job!

A well-crafted resume skills section , highlighting your relevant skills for an administrative assistant position, will help your resume beat the applicant tracking system (ATS) and stand out to hiring managers. Use the top administrative assistant skills and proficiencies above to effectively write your resume to achieve these goals.

Are you confident that your resume represents your administrative skills in a way that will land interviews? Why not submit it for a free resume review to be sure? 

Recommended reading:

7 Signs Your Resume is Making You Look Old

Why a Simple Resume Layout is a Successful Resume

How to See If My Resume Is ATS-Friendly for Free

Related Articles:

Choosing a Resume Writing Service: What to Look For

Cashier Skills: Add to Improve Your Resume!

Business Analyst Skills: Add to Improve Your Resume!

See how your resume stacks up.

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problem solving hard or soft skills

A hard push for soft skills

Y OU must possess certain abilities to succeed in life, at work or at play. Some of these abilities are needed to perform the technical aspects of the job — any job. Other abilities help individuals perform their tasks by engaging their co-workers and working in a collaborative environment.

The abilities that help one to perform the technical aspects of the job are called "hard skills," while the other abilities that enable one to work with others are called "soft skills."

Importance of soft skills

All jobs require both hard and soft skills. It is easier to ascertain if employees or job applicants possess hard skills because hard skills are more easily demonstrated and observed. It is harder, not impossible, to determine if a job applicant has specific soft skills that could contribute to organizational success.

Since the first industrial revolution roughly 300 years ago, much of the focus of skills building was on creating and improving the physical dexterity of employees to operate machines that became more complex over time. In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, businessmen and employers began to realize the great contribution of soft skills to organizational success.

Harvard University conducted a study that found that "as much as 80 percent of achievements in an individual's career are determined by soft skills, and only 20 percent by hard skills." Other studies found that the ratio is 85 percent to 15 percent in favor of soft skills. A 2021 McKinsey Global Survey on reskilling found that "the proportion of companies addressing empathy and interpersonal skills doubled in 2020." Since the pandemic, soft skills have become more in demand.

Soft skills primarily benefit the individuals who possess and continue to upgrade these skills. Many of these skills are also so-called life skills and can give people an advantage in this highly competitive world.

Soft skills benefit businesses as well in a number of ways. When employees practice certain soft skills on a companywide basis, they tend to be more productive. Teamwork is among the many corporate values of many enterprises; it is also a soft skill. When employees are able to demonstrate teamwork, a collaborative spirit is developed among them, which allows them to focus, work, and contribute to the achievement of common priorities.

Soft skills and AI

In a world where many hard skills can be automated, soft skills will become more important and critical in the workplace. As automation increases, employees will have to learn more hard skills that can help them work together with machines. At the same time, humans will need better soft skills to interact and deal with other humans — read and understand other people and navigate emotional situations that constantly happen in the workplace.

In 2013, Oxford academics reported that "47 percent of workers in America have jobs at risk of potential automation. It is an alarming top-line figure and one that has gained a good deal of traction in discussions around the future of work — and is still often repeated today."

In 2020, employers thought "47 percent of tasks would be automated by 2025. They now expect that number to reach 42 percent by 2027." Whether 47 percent or 42 percent, it is still a lot of jobs going to be affected by artificial intelligence.

A recent global economics report from Goldman Sachs allegedly said, "AI could automate 25 percent of the entire labor market, but can automate 46 percent in administrative jobs, 44 percent of legal jobs, and 37 percent of architecture and engineering professions."

Recent research and studies have caused many people to worry about job security, as experts believe that at least 300 million jobs worldwide will be affected by generative AI within the next few years. However, there is also an adverse view on the capabilities of AI — that 30 percent of US jobs will not be affected, 63 percent will only be complemented, and only 7 percent will be replaced by AI.

Amid these threats, people often forget that machines today do not have the soft skills humans possess, even as some robots have been doing customer service functions since a decade ago in some parts of Europe and Asia. Today's and the future's work configuration will continue to require soft skills, which is the competitive edge of humans over machines.

The soft skills

Back in the 1960s, the US military first used the term "soft skills" to refer to anything that did not require the use of machinery. Like the military terms "personnel" and "201 files," the term was also adopted by the corporate world. Don't forget that many successful generals during World War 2 were rewarded with top corporate posts, and management became "command and control." At that time, soft skills meant merely interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence.

In the 1980s, business and academic leaders started talking about skills that would be needed for success in the 21st-century skills. They identified a set of learning, literacy and life skills. Among the learning skills were critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. The academe started teaching these soft skills to educate children on the mental processes needed to adapt and advance in life.

In 1997, the US National Academy of Sciences released a report, "Preparing for the 21st Century: The Education Imperative." It was about the challenges in education for the upcoming century.

The so-called 21st-century skills were based primarily on "deeper learning" skills (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork) and "are composed of "soft skills" (e.g., interaction, collaboration, processing information, managing people) and "hard skills" (with mainly IT focus.

Today, soft skills are understood to encompass traits like adaptability, creativity, persuasion, collaboration, problem-solving, delegating, motivating, team-building, communication, relationship-building, change management, conflict resolution, time management, getting along with people, displaying a positive attitude, resilience, and emotional intelligence (with its key elements of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills).

If you want to stretch it further, you can add those traits that help you manage your emotions, understand other people, and work together to achieve common goals. Throw in a sense of inclusion and belonging, positive self-image, or similar skills — from the higher-level ability to conceptualize to the more mundane skills of simply meeting deadlines.

Now, it is easier to see why soft skills are vital to the success of individuals and organizations.

What is difficult is the measurement of soft skills. Unlike hard skills, which are easily demonstrable and observable, soft skills are often subjective, as they are personal attributes or qualities that enable people to interact and work with each other.

Peggy Klaus is the author of the best-selling books, "The Hard Truth About Soft Skills" (Collins, 2008) and "Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It" (Warner, 2003). She wrote, "Soft Skills get little respect, but will make or break your career."

Ernie Cecilia is the chairman of the Human Capital Committee and the Publication Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham); chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines' (ECOP's) TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues; and past president of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP). He can be reached at [email protected].

A hard push for soft skills


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