Cultivating Soft Skills in Students for Success in the Workplace

Nowadays, employers continue to observe a lack of ‘soft skills’ among graduates whenever they search for jobs. Multiple surveys have continuously ranked certain soft skills like team collaboration and verbal & written communication as top requirements for job seekers, and that problem-solving, critical thinking, and attention to detail are among the missing soft skills among job hunters.

While these skills can certainly be acquired throughout a person’s education, educators should still take a thorough look at how these skills can be effectively taught and practised at school.

What is “soft skills”?

Considered as an integral set of skills for success in the workplace, soft skills – or sometimes called core skills, key skills, or employability skills – is defined as good qualities a person can possess that are applicable in a variety of situations inside and outside of the workplace. In a nutshell, a person that shows excellent soft skills has a good work ethic that promotes a positive environment at work. Attributes like courteousness, professionalism, responsibility, teamwork, and flexibility are considered soft skills. These skills come in contrast with ‘hard skills’, or skills that are taught in the course of education that are industry-specific, such as those required to work as an accountant, a driver, a paralegal, or a graphic artist.

The importance of soft skills in the workplace has been established across different industries. In science-related jobs, among the essential soft skills considered by recruiters were collaboration & teamwork (60%) and flexibility & adaptability (45%). A different study also found that inadequate or improper communication can cost companies $62.6 million per year.

What soft skills are employers looking for?

According to a 2016 study by LinkedIn, here are some of the most sought-after soft skills sought by potential employers:

  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Teamwork
  • Punctuality
  • Critical-thinking
  • Social skills
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Friendliness

What techniques will help teach soft skills?

The responsibility for ensuring that students are taught about these vital skills don’t just fall on educators alone. School administrators must be on it as well and should even come up with a framework that will be implemented in the curriculum. Despite this, as front liners in education, teachers and instructors must be role models for students.

Integrating soft skills such as flexibility, social ability, and time management into the curriculum can be challenging. Unlike hard skills that are taught in, for example, Math, where there is a definite learning structure in place, what defines soft skills can sometimes be vague. As such, educators can start teaching soft skills by being role models

Display a positive attitude

One of the most significant aspects to show your students is a positive outlook on learning. Because soft skills are based on good qualities, showing a positive attitude at school will open them up and encourage them to have a positive outlook as well. Always see to it to wear a smile, even when passing students in the hallway. This may be a trivial thing to do, but its effect on kids can be profound. Since students spend most of their day at school, chances are, their happy and positive moments were spent and created on your school grounds, too.

Exhibit organizational & time-management skills

Students must understand the importance of being organized. Concepts that exhibit planning and coordination such as task prioritization and activity flow are all opportunities to explain why their organizational skill is vital. On the other hand, time-management is also a skill that can first be observed by students on their teachers. By simply being punctual in class, and reprimanding late-comers, poses a chance to emphasize and rationalize the concept of time-management.

Once these are already understood by the students, the class may even practice applicable organizational and time-management skills by setting up an event like a bake sale or a sports fest where the entire class will be assigned key tasks as organizers.

Practice listening skills & encourage speaking

Imitation, which starts with observation, is vital in the learning process, especially for social skills like listening. Whenever you are presented with a chance to talk to your students individually, make it a point to be a good listener that is immersed at the moment, picks up on key points, and is actively listening to what is being said.

While listening skills practice is usually done one-one-one, honing a person’s speaking skill is usually done collaboratively. Encourage students to speak in front of a crowd to build their confidence and presence of mind. This will be helpful especially to shy students that just need an extra push of motivation.

Show flexibility and adaptability

Aside from deadlines and score requirements, students are usually not that exposed to situations where their flexibility are tested. Flexibility and adaptability can somehow be related to a person’s resilience, making it a vital skill for career success.

As more students graduate and fewer jobs are created year after year, the competition for new job seekers is becoming much more intense. Honing students that are properly equipped with skills that employers actually need will help them land a job sooner and start laying their career building blocks earlier to reach success faster.