“Soft Skills” are Human Skills

April 19, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

No workday is routine. Every day presents new challenges. Providing employees with tools to meet challenges requires planning, development, and training in both hard skills and soft skills. Hard or technical skills are things like reading a profit and loss statement, balancing a budget, running a cash register, using excel, etc. These are all learned and practiced through application. Soft skills or as Simon Sinek calls them, human skills, include things such as active listening, empathy, effective communication, giving words of appreciation, teamwork, and networking. Soft skills are essential and are more important in long-term success yet businesses often fail to implement them in ongoing training for their employees. 

Too often people are promoted to supervisory positions because they are good at a hard skill, they have not had the opportunity to learn and practice soft skills. Sending a newly promoted supervisor or manager to a one-day training is good but it is not enough. It is through continual learning and application that people develop the human skills to become great leaders.

In the book “The Inspirational Leader” the core message is that leadership is about people. The author Gifford Thomas emphasizes that to become a great and inspirational leader you need to help inspire your team. Leaders need to develop people to perform heights they never imagined and to believe in the impossible. Thomas said, If you want to be a great leader, you must first start with being a better human being.”

It is the little things that make a huge difference. It is the genuine words of gratitude. It is loving the people you work with. It is serving others first. When my mother passed away, the funeral director publicly thanked the people who sent flowers. I was surprised to learn that my board of directors sent a bouquet. That simple gesture of kindness in a time of great sorrow made me feel loved and appreciated.

Businesses use metric systems like SWOT analysis to gauge the performance of the company or individuals based on hard skills. Soft skills are not included in the metrics because they are intangible, there is no way to measure them to record an ROI (return on investment). Some companies are recognizing that people with more soft skills deliver a higher return on investment than employees that rate high in the hard skills.

Active Listening for example. It is not easy to learn to talk less and listen more. Often when someone is speaking, our minds are jumping ahead to the next question. Or we are looking at our phones checking messages or email. Training ourselves to give full attention to the speaker is a skill that needs continual practice.

Other soft skills include openness, trust, building others up, problem-solving and decision making, being a team player, resolving conflict, collaboration, adaptability, and flexibility.

Companies that invest in continual leadership training of the soft skills to employees create an environment and culture that builds loyalty and has a high employee retention rate. Simon Sinek said, “Leadership is not an expertise. Leadership is a constant education.” The chamber can help. We have developed a 6-week leadership course that we can deliver in-house. Call us for more information on Ignite the Leader in You. 

Soft Skills Include:

  • active listening
  • empathy
  • effective communication
  • giving words of appreciation
  • teamwork
  • networking
  • openness
  • trust
  • problem- solving and decision making
  • resolving conflict
  • collaboration
  • adaptability
  • flexibility


Beltran, E. (2021, March 24). The Significance Of Soft Skills Development. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/03/24/the-significance-of-soft-skills-development/?sh=2c1c22b93e91

Sinek, S. (2021, February 25). There’s NO Such Thing as “Soft Skills” [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9uzJ0LgvT0

Thomas, G. (2019). The inspirational leader: Inspire your team to believe in the impossible. Independently Published.