Definition

soft skills

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to talent management tools and trends
Contributor(s): Mary Pratt

Soft skills is a synonym for "people skills." The term describes those personal attributes that indicate a high level of emotional intelligence.

Unlike hard skills, which describe a person's technical skill set and ability to perform specific tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It's often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get -- and keep -- the job.

The attributes of soft skills

Good manners, optimism, common sense, a sense of humor, empathy and the ability to collaborate and negotiate are all important soft skills. Other soft skills include situational awareness and the ability to read a situation as it unfolds to decide upon a response that yields the best result for all involved. 

Another important soft skill is adaptability. An employee with this attribute has the ability to work in various situations equally well and move from one situation to another with ease and grace. The ability to be diplomatic and respectful even when there are disagreements is also a key soft skill. This skill requires the employee to maintain a professional tone and demeanor even when frustrated. 

An employee with a high level of emotional intelligence has good communication skills and interpersonal skills. He can clearly articulate goals and can work in a team. He knows when to take a leadership role and when to sit back. He knows when to speak, when to listen and when to suggest a compromise. 

How to improve your soft skills

Business leaders value technologists who have soft skills or people skills because they have empathy and the ability to adjust their communication to the audience at hand. Although many individuals inherently possess these abilities, others must work to develop them.

Asking family and trusted colleagues for feedback can also help employees identify which soft skills require improvement as can simply observing and emulating how others successfully interact with others and handle difficult interpersonal situations. A professional coach, self-help books and articles on leadership can assist in this process, as can self-assessment tools like the Myers-Briggs personality profile test.

This was last updated in December 2015

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useful informarion but needs further elaboration without using technical jargon..
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It is already required by most of us.
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Even apprentices need to start with some soft skills or they wouldn't be there at all. And without some soft skills (AKA passion, humanity) the office would be a far emptier place. After that, we all (hopefully) learn on the job.
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I had very, very few soft skills required for the workplace (or life in general!). I was a very shy child and I've always been introverted. So, I'm always working on it and continuing to learn how to act and behave more socially. And it is acting - I'll always be an introverted person even if it is sometimes beneficial to act otherwise. 
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I tried to be practical in this aspect, by encouraging my co-worker soldering skill.
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I have to learn them on the job
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There's a recent Freakonomics podcast episode that I thought was very interesting. It was about how many people who played in rock bands for extended periods developed many skills that helped them immensely in different careers (I've been amazed at how many musicians I performed with over they years made a successful transition to technical careers). In many ways, the soft skills that are essential to surviving as a performing musician dovetail nicely into technical careers, including the ability to interact with others, to sync up in work situations, and perhaps most important, the development of a "thick skin".
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Did you intuitively possess the soft skills required for workplace success or did you have to learn them on the job?
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This is a great article for not only the tech sector (although sorely needed in many cases), but for every sector. Ever wonder why the other person got promoted, there's a good chance that it might have been people skills. I am fortunate in that I am very outgoing and have always been identified as the person who can bridge gaps. I compliment abuell, most people do not try to work on their soft skills let alone recognize the fact that they may be lacking. Great article.
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I started out with reliance on tech skills but over time my clients and teams expected the soft skills. I think I has to be become more aware and develop and continue to work on these soft skills as my career progressed.
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Both
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Frankly, all the soft skills I needed in the workplace I learned in kindergarten - and throughout my childhood. My first job reinforced those behaviors that I already developed. Subsequently, I learned that not all work environments are the same nor do they require application of the same soft skills to be successful. The one skill that is critical is to adapt to the culture of the workplace.
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No one is born good at "soft skills". Some were grown in the environment that stimulated the growth of these skills. Later in life, some people make a choice to work on the improvement of those skills. The organizations could do a better job helping people to develop these skills. On the other hand, a responsible adult should take charge of their own personal and professional development.
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@bariyar, we expanded this definition. Take a look!
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