The importance of soft skills like resilience

Work is shifting away from a defined, hierarchical framework toward project-based, teamwork-oriented tasks. One of the difficulties for HR and learning leaders today is keeping those teams learning new skills, new roles, and new opportunities in a world of uncertainty.

Writing for Bersin by Deloitte in an article called “What Is Talent in the Future of Work?” author David Mallon argues that we need to reduce friction and increase mobility: “As work begins to shift to project-based assignments, companies can mix and match talent as needed, which can lead to an abundance of competent workers.”

A Foundation of Soft Skills

As learning leaders shift to equip workers for this new world of projects and teams, “learning in the flow of work” — where workers can access bite-size, tailored learning experiences and apply their new skills immediately — has become imperative. However, despite this innovative approach, much of the conversation still focuses on equipping workers with technical skills related to specific job titles or roles. And many companies are finding that these skills are still failing to prepare employees for today’s fast-paced, unpredictable business environment.

The explanation for this phenomenon is very simple. Although technical skills are important, they are largely useless without soft skills — skills like resilience. More than just being able to use complex technology or operate dangerous machinery, employees working in teams need to feel comfortable contributing, even when they may be unsure about a new idea or afraid to call attention to a problem. Creating psychologically safe workplaces means equipping employees to communicate across differences and to disagree respectfully when necessary. When employees connect with positivity in teams, collaboration and innovation are accelerated. At the same time, there is a protective effect that comes when employees feel safe enough to call attention to potential problems. But these ideal teams depend on the foundational skills of positivity, communication, empathy, and the ability to manage stress.

new perspective

In addition to forming better teams, employees with these skills will develop the internal capacity to handle change, face new challenges with optimism, and pick up new skills and competencies with agility and confidence.

The data backs this up: Our research shows that 44 percent of senior executives believe soft skills are the critical skills gap for the future of work. In fact, developing soft skills like communication can even be a competitive advantage. But with so much change amid so many teams and so much complexity, there is one soft skill that rises above the rest: resilience.

The Top Soft Skill: Resilience

Research shows that more resilient workers are more agile and more able to bounce back from change more quickly than those with lower resilience. And 94 percent of executives believe these agility skills are critical for success in the future.

They’re also more creative, more innovative, and better at positively managing relationships — which comes in handy with the new network of teams.

But get this: In addition to complementing workers’ technical skills with emotional and cognitive skills that unlock their ability to manage stress, adapt, and perform to their utmost potential, resilience also equips people to learn better.

That’s right — soft skills like resilience actually boost employees’ abilities to build technical skills as well.

new perspective

Numbers-wise, our data indicates employees with higher resilience scores experience:

  • 30 percent higher ability to think and respond quickly
  • 32 percent more likely to engage in training and skill improvement
  • 28 percent higher levels of adaptiveness

In workplaces characterized by transformation, resilience is the single most important skill employees need to drive personal and organizational success. Resilience gives employees the internal capacity they need to learn on the job, adapt quickly, and move their teams forward no matter what setbacks and challenges they face.

A New Perspective

The data is clear: We need to embrace this new reality and the new demands on workers, but they don’t have to do it alone. We can equip them with the skills — hard and soft — to get them where they need to go. And it starts with resilience.

Read our e-book called “A New Perspective on Engagement and Performance to see how resilience brings everything together, and how you can begin equipping your employees and teams to build the resilience and agility they need to learn and succeed in today’s world.