5 Soft Skills Employers Wish Tech Employees Had
Updated: Oct 1
We’ve all heard the stereotype about the tech nerd who won’t make eye contact or is just impossible to talk to. In some instances those jokes are completely off base.
Occasionally, however, cliches exist for a reason. Sometimes it’s true that IT professionals rely heavily on their technical or “hard” skills and neglect the attributes that allow them to work and communicate effectively with others - aka their “soft” skills.
Employers see a lack of soft skills
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2019 State of the Workplace report reveals that skills - or, in many cases, a lack of them - is an enormous barrier to hiring.
In fact, 83 percent of the organizations surveyed for the report said they’d struggled to find talented employees over the last year.
One-third of those organizations surveyed said candidates who did apply lacked the soft skills needed for the role.
And the problem is only perceived as getting worse - the report revealed 50 percent of respondents thought the skills shortage had worsened over the last two years.
Let this statistic sink in: LinkedIn Learning’s annual Workplace Learning Report noted that 92 percent of executives think soft skills are more important than technical capabilities or that the two are equally important.
That means a mere 8 percent of executives believe hard skills are more critical than soft skills.
As technology progresses and artificial intelligence becomes more prominent, employers generally agree that people with soft skills that can’t be replicated or automated will become increasingly important. This is especially true as hard skills often have a shorter lifespan than soft skills. Programming languages come and go, but great communicators who can think creatively are always in demand.
What does this mean for tech workers?
It’s obvious: Having the technical skills to get you an interview is no longer enough to guarantee you’ll get the job. Those capabilities are just one piece of the puzzle.
Which soft skills are in demand?
Soft skills are often dismissed by job seekers as unimportant, particularly among those with in-demand hard skills. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
LinkedIn Learning’s Workplace Learning Report shows executives and managers agree that developing soft skills is a top priority.
What are the top soft skills hiring managers think are the most important?
Leadership, communication and collaboration.
In SHRM’s State of the Workplace report, employers who cited absent soft skills as a barrier to hiring had the opportunity to name the “most missing” ones. Nearly 40 percent said they had trouble finding employees with the ability to problem solve, think creatively and innovate. More than one-third said they struggled to find candidates who could be adaptable and manage ambiguity. Nearly the same amount said applicants lack simple communication skills.
These findings generally align with another LinkedIn survey. The company’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report assessed supply and demand of soft skills and found the following are the most sought after:
● Time management
Take a moment to reflect on that. Are you one of the applicants being dismissed because you lack some of these critical talents?
Why do I need soft skills?
It’s clear that it is no longer possible for technical employees to get by without soft skills. More hiring managers are asking behavioral questions intended to assess soft skills during interviews, so even the most talented programmer could be out of the running for a job if he or she hasn’t mastered some essential soft skills. It’s important to know exactly why some of these soft skills are applicable to technical roles so you’re able to address your abilities in these areas during interviews.
Most of us have had to deal with an unexpected - and possibly unwelcome - change at some point. Whether it’s being involved in a project with requirements that have changed halfway through or an enormous organizational restructuring, being flexible and adapting to these twists and turns is no longer just beneficial - it’s required. As technology continues to advance at breakneck speed it’s especially important for technical employees to be able to shift with ease when expectations, MVPs or specifications change on a moment’s notice.
When we think of people in technical positions or hard skill fields, we imagine rules and structure. This is certainly true, but creativity is also critical in these areas. Being able to think outside the box to solve a problem, develop a new application or think of a time-saving workaround are all abilities that would be coveted by any employer, no matter what role you’re in.
It’s rare to find anyone who works completely on their own these days. Even if you’re working on a specialized project, chances are you have to work with another individual, team, or stakeholder in some capacity. Cooperating with others and working toward a shared goal is the reality of today’s workplace and the ability to do it effectively can pay enormous dividends when it comes to advancing your career.
Everyone has worked with someone who can’t write a coherent email or get a point across. Effective communication isn’t just for journalism majors anymore, particularly with workplaces becoming more collaborative and team focused. Clear and concise language matters whether you’re sending a status update to a senior leader, pair programming or interviewing for a new job
More companies are moving toward flat organizational structures, particularly in the tech industry. While there may be an absence of formal leadership, that doesn’t mean teams aren’t looking for someone to guide them. Developing strong leadership skills sets you apart in a good way and is a great skill to have in your toolkit, even if you have no desire to formally manage a team.
The soft skills train has already left the station. With an enormous majority of executives claiming these skills are equally important as technical ability, if not more, it’s time every skilled tech professional brushed up on some of the most in-demand aptitudes in today’s market.
About the Company:
Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago's premiere I.T. staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 20+ years. Named after Chicago's historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland. Now based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP's 250+ employees have narrowed their focus to a single market (Chicago) and 4 core technical areas;
Application/mobile/web development and ecommerce
Data science/analytics/business intelligence/artificial intelligence
ERP SAP/Oracle and project management/BA/QA
PTP exists to ensure that all of our partners (clients and candidates alike) make the best hiring and career decisions.
Peterson Technology Partners is an equal opportunity employer.