n a fast-paced, competitive world that celebrates the rise of hard, vocational skills—how do we reconcile the growing need for what we often term "soft skills"?

And more importantly, why should we stop calling them "soft" and start emphasizing their reality and indispensability in the professional realm?

According to industry thought leader Seth Godin, authentic leadership, decision-making, and communication skills, often brushed aside as "soft," are the linchpins of a successful workforce and are, in fact, very 'real' and crucial skills that can be nurtured and taught.

This blog post explores why we must shift our mindset around these abilities, how they amplify vocational skills, and what organizations lack to improve understanding about this vital piece of the employment puzzle.

But we let ourselves off the hook when it comes to decision-making, eager participation, dancing with fear, speaking with authority, working in teams, seeing the truth, speaking the truth, inspiring others, doing more than we're asked, caring and being willing to change things. 

Redefining the "Soft" Skills Paradigm

"soft skills" do not address competencies crucial for working effectively with others. These skills are essential to building a successful career rather than being considered added benefits.

Seth Godin argues that we should call them 'real skills' instead because they are crucial, work, and are what we desperately need in today's professional landscape.

Let's stop calling them soft. They're interpersonal skills. Leadership skills. The skills of charisma and, diligence and contribution.

Fundamental skills like decision-making, participation, team collaboration, and fear-tackling are foundational to any vocation. They can be as integral to a designer or an engineer as the technical abilities they've honed. 

At scale, organizations pay less attention to soft skills when hiring because we've persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure. 

How Real Skills Complement Vocational Aptitude

Fundamental skills don't replace vocational strengths; they complement them magnificently. Imagine an employee with an exemplary resume packed with vocational expertise.

Now, envision them with a layer of characteristics—perceptiveness, charisma, communicative ability, empathetic leadership, and a strategic perception that profoundly listens and motivates.

These are not just superficial qualities; they are the traits that determine how well one can apply their vocational knowledge in a collaborative, growth-oriented environment.

The message is clear: vocational skills are a launchpad, while fundamental skills propel one to new heights. Too often, young professionals focus entirely on the former, not realizing that the latter can make or break their career development.

Organizations must recognize and cultivate these 'real skills' in their workforce, embedding them in their training and development strategies to create well-rounded, successful employees.

Real because even if you've got the vocational skills, you're no help to us without these human skills, the things that we can't write down or program a computer to do.

The Reality of People-Centric Organizations

Seth Godin's perspective hits home when we look at the current state of many workplaces. Financial goals and short-term gains often overshadow the need for organizational structures that emphasize the growth and empowerment of employees.

We find ourselves in settings where speaking one's mind, creative collaboration, and personal development are overshadowed by authoritative control.

To address this, businesses must strive to foster environments that encourage genuine human interaction, feedback, and, most importantly, meaningful dialogue.

The innate human desire to have work that matters is often dampened by organizational structures that stifle authentic communication. To build people-centric organizations, employers must appreciate the criticality of fundamental skills alongside vocational expertise.

The foundation of all fundamental skills is this one: the confidence and permission to talk to one another. Not to manage, belittle, intimidate or control. Simply to seek to be understood and to do the work to understand.

Closing the Skill Gap

Professionals are entering the workforce with impressive academic qualifications and technical know-how but need more fundamental abilities to engage effectively with others and propel their careers forward.

This gap is evident from the discomfort many managers express about the basic yet essential communication task. Employers, too, flag a need for more strategic thinking, leadership, and adaptability among graduates despite their strong analytical and technical proficiencies. 

What actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.

A Unified Skills Approach

Institutions and employers must come together to re-evaluate their training, education, and recruitment methods. There's an immense opportunity to redefine what it means to be 'trained,' to extend the focus from technical competencies to include the crucial abilities that foster collaboration, creativity, and leadership.

Apr 2, 2024
Skills For Future

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