There is a significant shift underway in our workplaces. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence and robotics before the year 2020. Many other jobs will be created through this period of fast-paced change but in order to compete, workers will need to be highly reactive and adaptive.
Occurring simultaneously to the skills disruption resulting from rapid advancements in technology is a skills gap identified by employers who say that hires who have recently graduated have the skills to complete their assigned tasks but overall are unable to meet expectations because they lack the all-important “soft skills”. Investopedia defines soft skills as character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. Many of these employees have not developed crucial abilities such as critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, public speaking, teamwork, attention to detail and effective communication including proficiency in their written work.
The real disconnect is that recent graduates describe themselves as feeling well-prepared to enter the workforce but managers overwhelmingly disagree. Co-worker relations and customer service suffer, often leading to a significant loss of productivity.
Soft skills are not only indispensable in the workplace but help people make better decisions, be more resilient and better able to overcome challenges in their lives. Now for the good news: in the short-term, the necessary skills can be gained on-the-job through instruction, experience and mentorship. An important long-term strategy will be to restructure the programs in our institutions of learning so our leaders of the future will have focused on their social and emotional development in addition to career-specific training. Survival and success in this new frontier of technically-dependent workplaces will be predicated on our level of agility and emotional intelligence.