Skip to main content

The Workplace Skill Most In Demand? Social Skills

New research finds that jobs requiring stellar social skills are the fastest-growing job segment in our economy. Um, hello? Yes, I was talking to you. Okay, I'll wait while you finish texting...

Oh great, you're done! Thanks for allowing me to finish my thought. I'll make it quick.

So, where was I? Oh, yes. I was going to mention how soft skills are becoming harder to find in today's economy, but they're increasingly the most important skill employees need on the job.

We tend to think of "smart" as being book smart (i.e., academically talented), but there are different kinds of smarts. There's book smart, and then there's socially smart. Both are equally important (no, really!) and, increasingly, job applicants can't have one without the other to land the very best jobs.

That's because managers in our fast-moving economy can teach a new hire basic work skills (e.g., here's how you perform a basic technique in a STEM job), but they can't teach a new hire basic social skills (e.g., here' why it's important to say "thank you"). Managers simply don't have the time to teach social skills, and quite frankly, it shouldn't have to be a part of their job description.

Besides, nobody (and I mean nobody!) asks for, or cares about, our GPA or SAT scores once we hit the workplace. They are irrelevant to the here and now of getting the work done.

However, our work colleagues care very much if we -- through our tone, wording, body language, attitude and other aptitudes -- manage to offend a client, come to work every day acting like we don't care, lack accountability and initiative, never take an interest in anyone else, seem unable to solve problems on our own, fail to thank customers, think we're too big to fail, and otherwise swear, burp, slurp, never smile or extend ourselves to others.

With so much educational emphasis on book smarts, however, our social smarts have taken a back seat when today's very best jobs require -- no, demand! -- that we bring our best social skills to the table every day. According to an excellent piece in today's New York Times:

Jobs that require both socializing and thinking, especially mathematically, have fared best in employment and pay, Mr. [Harvard Professor David] Deming found. They include those held by doctors and engineers. The jobs that require social skills but not math skills have also grown; lawyers and child-care workers are an example. The jobs that have been rapidly disappearing are those that require neither social nor math skills, like manual labor.

So if we want our kids to land the top jobs of the future, then we need to encourage their social skills as much as their academic skills.

Now there are some of us who are so highly skilled technically that our social skills don't matter very much on the job. For the vast majority of us, however, our social skills can make us, or break us, on the job. They can propel us to new career highs, or sink us to new career lows.

The task falls on us to make sure that we're teaching our children proper social skills while also continuing to hone our own at every opportunity so we can set a good example. In the social media age, it's far too easy to grow soft where our social skills are concerned. It seems ironic somehow, but maybe that's just me.

Social skills are our most important workplace asset, hands down. They grease the wheels of human interaction, everywhere we go. Good manners don't take much, but the payoff can be huge -- especially in the emerging job market. Now put the phone down and smile, will you?


Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…