Soft Skills Are Super Skills

Soft Skills Are Super Skills

Educators work to nurture lifelong learners who possess the skills necessary to face uncertainty and enact transformational change. School curriculums still include the “Three R’s”—reading, writing and arithmetic. But my seven-year-old daughter recently taught me about the “Four C’s”—critical thinking, communications, collaboration and creativity. Teachers point to these “super skills” as an essential part of preparing young kids for twenty-first-century jobs that don’t currently exist.

Many corporations, however, view the Four C’s as “soft skills.” To my daughter, marshmallows, stuffed monkeys and pillows are “soft.” No successful employee wants her skill set or workplace performance associated with these items.

Businesses should stop using the word “soft” to describe these skills and instead take a cue from teachers and refer to them as super skills. Why? Because these are precisely the skills employees need when facing times of change and uncertainty.

Corporations are staring down an unknown and increasingly automated future, and employees need the ability to lead through new challenges. Of the U.S. CEOs surveyed by PWC, 90 percent rank problem-solving as a very important skill. Furthermore, researchers estimate that “45 percent of manual, time-consuming, rules-based office tasks can be done more efficiently by robotic process automation.” Clearly, it’s imperative that today’s leaders possess strategic communication skills, adaptability, creative solutions, the expertise to transform business, and a talent for critical observation.

Super skills are particularly necessary when conducting M&A integration. Our post Why Most M&As Don’t Reach Their Full Potential details how 75 percent of mergers fail to meet their objectives due to issues related to people, communication and culture. Cultivating super skills leads to high employee engagement and a thriving, integrated post-merger workplace culture.

To ensure that super skills are encouraged, business leaders should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How do I talk about super skills in my organization?
  • How do I train leaders to define the behaviors that will bring the best super skills to my company?
  • How do I talk about the importance of super skills in relation to my company’s short- and long-term strategies?
  • How do I develop programming and experiences for employees so that they are motivated and ready to drive innovation?

Placing emphasis on super skills—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity—will establish a culture where innovation and solutions to twenty-first-century problems abound.

Learn how professional development can nurture super skills.