You’re probably familiar with “soft skills,” but have you ever heard of power skills? What if we told you they’re the same thing? Yep. It turns out that soft skills aren’t “soft” at all, and the working world is taking notice!
Over the last couple of decades, there’s been a clear distinction between “hard skills” and “soft skills.” Hard skills are typically associated with technology, math, and science. They’re strictly learned abilities – nobody is born with the ability to code (at least not yet!). Things like proficiency in a software and the ability to perform mathematical operations would fall into this category.
In contrast, the things we’ve been calling “soft skills” are generally associated with behavior, personality traits, and social skills. They include things like adaptability, communication, empathy, problem-solving abilities, collaboration, etc. Historically, they’ve been considered a plus or something that’s just “nice to have” when hiring, while hard skills have been the make-or-break criteria.
But this is all changing. Why? The skills gap – or the gap between employers’ needs and the workforce’s abilities – is widening. And, surprisingly, research has shown that the most sought-after skills are actually soft skills.
MOVE OVER, “SOFT SKILLS” - WELCOME POWER SKILLS
As organizations rediscover the importance of things like resilience, writing, and critical thinking, a need to rebrand these abilities has become glaringly obvious.
After all, how can you argue that someone is a “strong” candidate, when their best qualities are supposedly “soft?” How can you convince executives that they need to invest in making their employees “softer?”
Words matter. And, in this case, the words are just all wrong! The current terminology is an obstacle to closing the skills gap.
Enter the new term: power skills.
The term “power skills” is meant to erase the false hierarchy implied by the distinction of hard vs. soft skills. It is intended to capture that these skills are actually very influential in work environments.
Consider this example. Imagine a furniture business is putting together an app for customers to shop online using augmented reality. They hire a dream team of developers and software engineers to create their very first application. Individually, they are great at writing code – they meet all the criteria.
However, they do not work well as a team. They’re used to working independently, so they struggle to collaborate. As a result, deliverable dates get pushed back, the project goes on much longer than intended, and the budget balloons. One of the developers even quits the team.
Additionally, once the app is done, they can’t communicate what the app can and cannot do in layman’s terms. Because they cannot concisely and thoroughly explain the functionalities of the app, the marketing team has to devote additional time and resources to learning how the app works through trial and error. This further postpones the launch date of the app and inflates the budget.
These are the types of challenges that businesses run into when they prioritize hard skills at the expense of power skills.
Businesses must ensure that employees have adequate levels of both skillsets. Without appropriate power skills, it is more challenging – if not impossible – to translate hard skills into business success.
IN-DEMAND POWER SKILLS AND WHY THEY MATTER
So why is it that, all of a sudden, companies are expressing a heightened interest in power skills?
Well, it’s no secret that the pandemic increased our dependence on technology in the workplace. What is interesting, though, is that the pandemic simultaneously highlighted the importance of power skills.
Almost overnight, the economy and our everyday lives were turned on their head. This created a series of unprecedented challenges for businesses and employees.
Although technology has been helpful for navigating these challenges, power skills have proven equally necessary for surmounting these obstacles and adapting to the new technologies.
Below, we highlight 3 power skills that are in high demand among businesses and why they matter.
Communication has always been vital to business success.
Communication is the vehicle through which company culture is conveyed. It’s the tool that aligns daily operations with strategic goals. It’s a means for solving problems and executing tasks. To put it simply: communication is central to business health.
However, in the age of decentralized offices and working from home, strong communication abilities are more important than ever.
Knowing what to communicate, to whom, through which channels – all of this is imperative in remote work environments.
Think about it: prior to the WFH movement, communication happened all the time, incidentally, without much effort. Now, all communication must be intentional, and it has to overcome the barrier of distance.
Additionally, embedded within the power skill of communication is the ability to be a good listener. Most of us have to be constantly plugged in to multiple devices at a time.
This means that, at any given point, the person we are talking to has to compete for our attention with notifications, messages, and incoming calls – in addition to whatever is going on in our physical space.
Therefore, the capacity to tune out distractions and be attentive to whoever is speaking to us is a must-have power skill.
Want to learn more about the power of communication in a business? Check out this article!
Similar to communication, teamwork and collaboration have always been crucial workplace skills.
Teams that work well together are better at solving problems. They’re more efficient. They’re more innovative. They are more likely to transfer knowledge to one another and teach each other new skills.
Also similar to communication, teamwork is a power skill whose demand has skyrocketed in digital environments.
In fact, remote work settings require a whole new subset of teamwork abilities! In order to work effectively with others in the digital age, employees need to understand collaboration tools and how to use them effectively with others. This includes things like:
- Collaborating on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations through Microsoft Office Online
- Maintaining a consistent stream of communication through email or instant messaging applications like Slack
- Holding effective and engaging meetings through Zoom or Microsoft Teams
- Developing and managing projects through applications like Trello, Microsoft Project, and Basecamp
Teamwork in the digital age is about more than just knowing how to use different applications. It’s about maintaining a personal touch, fostering relationships, and following good digital etiquette while using these apps.
Another top power skill is empathy. Empathy can play a very important role in organizations, on several fronts. First, empathy is necessary for good leadership. Actually, according to research, empathy is the most important leadership skill.
Why is that? Well, empathetic leaders inspire better work, foster healthier working conditions, and improve employee engagement.
Employees are more likely to put their best foot forward when they feel their needs are understood and appreciated by their employers.
Additionally, empathetic leaders are more likely to provide time, space, and resources that allow for work-life balance and self-care. This reduces the likelihood of turnover and burnout because it allows employees to manage the demands of their job in a sustainable manner.
Empathetic employees and leaders are also in-demand for another major reason: inclusiveness.
Now more than ever before, diversity, equity, and inclusion are expected by employees and consumers alike.
In order to embrace diversity and foster inclusiveness, one must be willing and able to understand the experiences of others. Therefore, empathy – among employees and leaders alike – is an indispensable power skill for diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Learning Power Skills
So, can power skills be taught, and learned? Absolutely. Any organization with a robust L&D program that includes hard skills, compliance training, and leadership skills, among others, should include power skills training.
Power skills can be learned. And those with existing power skills, can improve. There are no quick solutions to teaching and learning power skills. It takes time. And it takes a commitment to continuous improvement. Hard skills training to operate a piece of equipment or new software has a clear start and finish to the comprehension and ability to perform a task. Power skills training requires a dedication by both the organization and employees to learn, practice, and continue to grow utilizing power skill training.
Soft skills are not so soft, after all. That’s why we’re calling them power skills.
In recent years, largely as a result of the pandemic, companies have developed a pressing need for power skills among their employees.
Skills like teamwork, communication, and empathy have always been important to business performance. But in our rapidly-changing economy, they’ve emerged as essential tools for navigating challenges and adapting to digital transformations.
Does your team have the power skills they need to succeed? At RTG Solutions Group, we can help you empower your employees to drive business growth. Contact us today to speak with our training experts!