Soft skills are defined as the personal attributes that help people interact effectively and harmoniously with others. These skills are important, yet have historically played a supporting role next to the essential hard skills required for any given profession. However, as the search for candidates with soft skills has grown increasingly challenging, employers have begun to focus on these attributes over the technical and job-specific skills they traditionally prioritized.

In an effort to examine the evidence behind this growing demand, Guy Berger, Chief Economist at LinkedIn, recently led an analysis of 2.3 million profiles of LinkedIn members to determine the most in-demand soft skills for employers.2 Based on Berger's analysis, we highlight three new learnings on the role of soft skills in the U.S. workforce below:  

Soft Skills are harder to find than Hard Skills

Last year, the Wall Street Journal surveyed nearly 900 executives on the importance of soft skills versus technical skills. While 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills, 89% also said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with these characteristics.3 Unfortunately, without appropriately skilled employees, companies put the health of their business in jeopardy. Berger's research reiterates this business challenge, noting that 58% of hiring managers surveyed reported that lack of soft skills among candidates is limiting their company's productivity.4

Soft Skills are most demanded in the Service Industries

In industries or specific positions where interpersonal interactions are infrequent, employers may put less emphasis on a workers' soft skills than on the technical skills required to complete the job. However, soft skills hold paramount importance in the service industries where social exchanges occur regularly and where employees are required to communicate well, think critically and demonstrate creativity. Of the top ten industries in which soft skills are most common, restaurants, consumer services, and professional training & coaching represent the top three.5

Communication Is King

What are the most in-demand soft skills? Berger's analysis reports communication, organization and teamwork as the top three most sought after skills among employers, respectively. The ability to build and maintain relationships, facilitate innovation, and ensure transparency with communication makes it an invaluable foundational quality for top workers to possess. Moreover, fundamental soft skills are applicable to every job function, industry, and level of seniority, making it unsurprising to see teamwork and organization also ranked among the most in-demand competencies.

In an effort to help employers, youth organizations, school and workforce boards alike develop workforce-ready employees, Penn Foster offers a Career Readiness Bootcamp that provides power skills, or soft skills, training to both employees and prospects. With a focus on many of the most sought after skills " including communication, critical thinking and teamwork " the training solution help individuals develop the employability skills they need for long-term career success. Click below to learn more about using Penn Foster's Career Readiness Bootcamp at your organization.

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) LinkedIn: Soft Skills Increasingly Crucial to Getting Your Dream Job (1, 2, 5) WSJ: Employers Find 'Soft Skills' in Short Supply (3, 4)