If you are a technology worker or have hired tech staff, appreciating the value of what can be called ‘soft skills’ or ‘human skills’ or ‘professional business skills’ is vital to personal career development and business performance. Gone are the times when technical skills were enough for a long and empowering career, and for maximising business value.
Why? Well gone are the days when IT was a cost/support centre dedicated to a help desk and a little more. Technology is a profit centre that is at the centre of how to make digital transformation a success. We know digital transformation is made more difficult by the need for technical staff to partner with the business. Career prospects are exceptionally good for IT professionals able to lead partnerships with the rest of the business.
They work matching business needs to the technology that can meet those needs more efficiently (say through automation) or more effectively (say through using data faster to adopt a supply chain faster to new demands or an app to change customer needs).
Few people can perform this role. It takes courage to lean out of the technical field into the business landscape, What might you need to learn about to make this step into this valuable role?
- An understanding of the role of different functional areas of the business and how those roles add business value leading to...
- Stakeholder management skills as complex arrangements of stakeholders with different perspectives will come your way leading to...
- The emotional empathy to bridge the gap between technical and business language...
- The presentation skills show how technology can increase business value...
- The ability to manage technical teams to make that business value real
As a technical person shifts to a team mindset where the team is not made up only of technical staff can be very tricky. There is the fear that time spent in such teams will make you ‘post-technical'. You need emotional empathy and intelligence. You need to move beyond your particular tech interests to join up those of others into something that has business value. It is also likely that seeing what business value needs to be created requires understanding and focusing on how to create that value. Venturebeat talks of three soft skills for developers Focus on big-picture thinking, Embrace Empathy and Shift to a team-oriented mindset through practice.
Linked In talks of a slightly different basket of soft skills. Staying motivated, keeping confident, empathy, communication skills, creative and critical thinking. These skills will help you thrive in any job, be a great person to work with and be more empowered in your role – which is why employers are so keen on them. If comparing employees for promotion, those with a wider, more balanced and holistic skill set will have the edge.
Manpower talks of reliability and self-discipline, resilience and adaptability, reasoning and problem solving, creativity and originality, and critical thinking and analysis in association with tech skills.
A 2022 UK Soft Skills survey reveals leadership soft skills as the most important, that young people value written communication skills as valuable, empathy is what one-third of people view as most valuable and communication skills have increased as a needed skill since the Covid pandemic
Our QA perspective
We value diversity at QA. We reckon diversity is a moral agenda and a performative one. Diverse teams perform better especially when it comes to the need for technical and business staff to work together. We know from the 2022 UK Soft Skills survey that males and females prioritise soft skills differently. Females value empathy more. Men value leadership skills more. Females value conflict resolution more. Men value problem-solving skills more.
Training in soft skills can have the impact of helping your diversity agenda. Highlighting the importance of these skills when working together in diverse groups matters. Similar age differences exist too, making soft skills training important in the diverse age groups we see in teams. Lastly what people wish to learn varies over time making being on-trend important. Currently, communication skills, interpersonal skills, time management skills and conflict resolution are on an upward trend.
We understand your priorities for soft skills training will vary according to your context, your graduates and your budget. We can provide Targeted Mastery Classes that are deep dives into areas we know are important. We can provide shorter instructor lead virtual sessions that can be absorbed easily into a working day like a meeting.
If you are a STEM grad wishing to get on, ask your line manager for more soft skills training, justifying your need using the skills from the lists above – thinking through why you might gain most from which skill. If you are an L&D specialist or an IT department head, contact us to create some high-impact tailored training that meets your exact needs. Our Learning Solutions Consultants will work with you to help you with your specific agenda.
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