These days it seems like we are obsessed with talking about millennials. Maybe it’s because as they grow older and shift into leadership positions we’re beginning to have a deeper understanding of how technology has affected this generation socially and within the workplace.
One LinkedIn survey indicates that millennials are more likely to job-hop than previous generations – they will likely have held four different jobs by the time they reach age 32. They are also reportedly feeling underprepared for the jobs they have. According to a recent Randstad and Future Workplace study, many feel “unprepared to solve conflicts, negotiate, and manage other people”. Employers are finding they lack essential soft skills that foster leadership, conflict resolution and the ability to manage others.
What are soft skills and why do we need them?
Soft skills fall under a rather large category of interpersonal attributes. They can be categorized as communication skills (verbal and nonverbal), teamwork, networking, negotiation, creative + critical thinking, positivity and conflict resolution; just to name a few. Knowledge of these skills better prepares individuals to navigate their work and social environments. These skills are critical for the success of both individuals and businesses.
To master soft skills it takes conscious self and body awareness that is an ongoing learning process. Soft skills not only help us on a personal level, they also foster strong workplace communication, listening and collaboration skills. Therefore, if you’re a brilliant computer programmer, but you don’t work well with others, you’re probably not an ideal candidate to transition into a management position.
In the past employers focused on hard skills for hiring. These technical skills are generally more quantifiable and defined. Research suggests that soft skills will become increasingly important as the modern labor market shifts.
One article published by The Quarterly Journal of Economics unveils research about the growing demand for social skills over the past several decades citing that “The association between social skills and the probability of full-time work has increased more than fourfold”
One thing we can anticipate is that technology will change the way business is done. It is becoming increasingly important to stay on top of evolving technological advances and trends. Because hard skill occupations are ever evolving, businesses are beginning to see the value in soft skills. According to a study conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, as technology advances hard skills jobs will decline and eventually become automated. Additionally, due to globalization and expanding markets, this exposes companies to increased competition. Being able to understand customer needs becomes the number one priority. Corporations that deal best with complex situations with a focus on customer service will be the ones that stand out from the crowd.
Deloitte forecasts "soft skill intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000. The number of jobs in soft-skill intensive occupations is expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations.” As a result, corporations are expected to invest $4 billion dollars in training each year.
So, what does this mean for the future?
Millennials looking to grow their career need to have the right mix of technical skills, communication and leadership attributes. Technology has had a transformative effect on the way this generation communicates. Gen X and Y are entering the work force with a lack of communication and interpersonal skills. Additionally individuals that are new to the job market aren’t receiving on the job soft skills training. There is a lack of focus on face-to-face employee communication and collaboration, thus resulting in a lack of conflict resolution experience.
The Narrative Body has shared some of our top tips for growing your soft skills for future career growth.
1. Managing people
If you want to transition into a management position, you must first begin to hone your observation skills. This first begins with the observation of oneself to bring awareness to your nonverbal tendencies. Once you have an understanding of your nonverbal behaviors you slowly become more aware of others nonverbal tendencies. Because of this awareness you begin to make stronger connections with fellow coworkers and clients.
Managers that are stuck in an office or behind a computer all day often struggle to understand what’s really going on with their team. They need to observe and interact with their team to assess feelings, competency and engagement. We can begin to understand the way someone is feeling or working with others simply based on their body language alone.
The way individuals sit, stand, gesture and speak can all be indicators of comfort, discomfort, mood, and enthusiasm. If the manager isn’t using their powers of observation, they often fail to realize how to best manage their team. Strong observers are able to see these issues and tackle challenges with employees, groups or clients before they escalate into a larger problem.
2. Teamwork and collaboration
It is simple; teamwork increases productivity across all channels. Working as a team player isn’t always easy, especially if you are used to working solo. To be a strong team player one must be actively present physically and mentally. The Narrative Body recommends embodying active listening skills to becoming a stronger team player.
Active listening skills are communicated though your nonverbal behavior such as eye contact, focus, postures and gestures. We know immediately if someone isn’t listening to us. They tend to not make eye contact, they withhold head nodding as recognition, their body posture is slumped and closed off or their shoulders or feet begin to turn away from us.
Next time you are in a collaborative situation bring awareness to what your body is doing. If you are slumped down in your chair or crouched over a table, try to sit up tall, aligning your shoulders and toes to the person you are interacting with. Acknowledge the individual who is speaking with eye contact and head nods. Nodding your head in recognition not only indicates active listening, it also affirms and validates what the other person is saying. Offering these simple validating gestures cultivates stronger team dynamics.
We already know that to be a good manager you must learn to be a good observer, however the power of observation is also within each and every employee. Most leaders display a strong nonverbal command of their body. They cultivate this powerful presence from a distance. Others begin to take notice of leadership presence even before they speak or interact with others. The moment we are exposed to others they are observing and assessing us to learn about who we are. Leaders usually have a spotlight on them, therefore you must be mindful of what your nonverbal messages are saying. Leaders tend to display a unique mixture of confidence, presence, warmth and intellect. These variables will shift contextually however; over time this is something you can begin to be mindful of in work situations.
Confidence can be one of the strongest indicators of leadership presence. How do you shift your body language to display confidence? Be mindful of your posture when you enter a room. If you enter the room with slumped posture and eyes looking at the ground it tends to indicate an apologetic or meek presence. Instead, enter the room with a tall, aligned spine, shoulders pressed down your back and eyes tracking forward. These simple shifts in your physical presence will make you appear knowledgeable, confident and trustworthy.
The Narrative Body is here to help you improve your soft skills for career growth. To book a private or group session email email@example.com
David J. Deming; The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 132, Issue 4, 1 November 2017, Pages 1593–1640, https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjx022