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Indian SMEs (small-to-midsize enterprise) and traditional family-owned businesses have struggled due to a dearth of soft skills in their workforces. Some of the reasons are the lack of available opportunities to affordably upskill their current employees, and high salary requirements of employable human resources who possess these skills. Hence, due to a focus on hiring for high quality technical and hard skills, such businesses often neglect or undervalue the importance of investing in soft skills.

Are soft skills really that important for businesses to thrive in the hypercompetitive markets of India?

Yes, soft skills matter. Some of fastest growing job roles, like sales development, customer success and customer experience jobs, are largely soft skills based.

In a study conducted by the SHRM, 83% of the responding recruiters have had trouble recruiting candidates due to a shortage of skills. 30% reported that the lack of soft skills was one of the top reasons for the recruiting struggle. (Source: SHRM-2019)

Here are some insights from experts around the globe:

  • As automation changes the way we work, the demand for soft skills is likely to continue to increase. According to a research conducted by the World Economic Forum, some of the fastest growing professions – customer success specialists, talent acquisition specialists and social media assistants – rely on more diverse skillsets, especially soft skills. (Source: Allen Blue, Co-founder & VP, Product management, Linkedin)
  • Due to the rise in demand, the soft skills training market is forecasted to reach $5.2 billion by 2024, registering a CAGR of 17.5%, during the forecast period of 2019-2024. (Source: Global Soft Skills Training Market Insights)
  • Soft skills are much harder to replicate via automation and artificial intelligence, and the importance of both developing and rewarding for them has never been higher. If such skills are not rewarded in proportion to their value, then top talent will not be incentivized to focus on them, choosing instead to invest additional time acquiring hard skills. (Source: McKinsey Organization Blog)

What are the top 5 soft skills that should be on our learning plan in 2020?

Okay let's get to the point. Here are 5 skills that leading organisations will be looking for in 2020:

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Some of the top firms in the world hire and retain talent that have the ability to work effectively with diverse sets of teams.

To become an effective team player, we must develop the ability to have an open mind, give everyone a chance to express their opinion, and respect everyone’s contribution, whether small or big.

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In a fast-paced world like ours, being flexible and being willing to embrace change are almost critical skills to possess. Turbulent economies call for organizations that are as malleable as clay. Business success depends on the speed with which an organisation can mould itself to keep up with changing circumstances.

To develop the ability to adapt to any scenario, we must let go of the fear of making mistakes and failing. By being willing to make mistakes and learning from them, we can open a door to newfound knowledge and alternative solutions that can potentially lead us to success.

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At this point in the 21st century, almost every business has multiple competitors across the industry. To gain competitive advantage over others, businesses strive to develop and offer unique and different solutions. This need to think differently has lead to a surge in the demand for talent that has creative thinking skills.

Many believe that creativity is something that talented people are born with. But we need to think of creativity as a skill that we can learn to develop. By being curious and asking ourselves more questions, or brain tries to find more information that can help solve the problem at hand. Don’t settle for a single way of thinking. The more different questions we ask ourselves, the more creative our ideas will be.

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The power of persuading and influencing people is like every leader’s oxygen. To increase sales, business leaders decide to pour a lot of their budget into persuasive marketing and advertising. Persuasive abilities help not only to convince customers to buy our products and services, but also to convince our team members to support our ideas and opinions.

To become better at persuasion we must first identify the persuasive techniques that we must stop using. Forcing or trying too hard by constantly repeating something only creates a sense of irritation. Instead of talking too much, we must focus on actively listening to our audience and understanding their needs.

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As the name suggests, it is the ability to be intelligent about one’s emotions i.e. the ability to identify and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Employers look for high emotional intelligence because such talent can navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others.

From a professional standpoint, emotional intelligence is linked to your ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, follow through on commitments, develop healthy relationships, and adapt to changing circumstances. To build our emotional intelligence, what we must do is improve our ability to manage stress and be empathetic with everyone around us.

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Post Author: Abhishek Mehta

Abhishek Mehta is a Co-founder of Skillephant, a skill development and management firm that helps organisations build and manage teams. Prior to this, while working with globally leading e-commerce clients at a real estate firm, Abhishek was able to build an expertise in project and human resource management. It was early in his career when he learnt about the valuable role that a strong human capital plays in an organization's success. Abhishek is ardent about making a difference and providing people with vital learning and development resources that can pave the path to success.

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