Hard facts about soft skills

Soft skills, like creativity and people management are going to be at a premium when employers are looking for new hires.
Nov 17, 2020
Our humanity at a premium

Automation is going to change the workplace, but what machinery lacks is the ability to empathise and collaborate, we’re still the best at that by far.

So, soft skills, like creativity and people management are going to be at a premium when employers are looking for new hires.

A study of 1,000 Australian undergraduates and recent graduates found that they view complex problem solving as the most needed soft skill for career success at 23 per cent. This was followed by critical thinking (14 per cent), creativity (12 per cent), people management (11 per cent), cognitive flexibility (9 per cent), coordinating with others (9 per cent), emotional intelligence (9 per cent), judgement and decision making (8 per cent), service orientation (3 per cent) and negotiation (2 per cent).

The study by Oxford University Press Australia has found 88 per cent of Australian students view “soft skills” as necessary to ensure career success, with 78 per cent agreeing that soft skills will give them an advantage in an increasingly automated workforce.

90 per cent of Australian students felt that soft skills are necessary to secure a role. More than one third (38 per cent) felt that upskilling will be an ongoing practice throughout their professional life, while one in five students expected that upskilling will be required once every six months to support their career.

Matthew Allen, Professor at the University of Tasmania and OUP author, spoke positively of the Australian higher education sector’s capabilities in supporting the development of these skills.

“Employers are placing a greater emphasis on soft skills as the nature of work becomes increasingly flexible. The workforce is changing. With more automation and in a post-COVID society, employers will be seeking graduates with effective soft skills far more than before,” Professor Allen said.

“Universities are taking great strides to reinforce these soft skills by implementing new teaching practices that improve student readiness to face these interpersonal challenges in the workplace. The study found 43 per cent of students agree that their university values and supports the development of their soft skills.

“Teaching models with strategic practical frameworks such as role play, reflective practice or workshops are proving to create graduates that are more prepared for the work environment.”

Dr Alexia Maddox, Lecturer in Communication at Deakin University and OUP author, highlighted that upskilling will play an ongoing role in maintaining a competitive advantage throughout a graduate’s career.

“While technical upskilling has been a staple of maintaining career longevity in many industries for decades, we can expect a similar trend to emerge for these increasingly prized soft skills in the future,” Dr Maddox said.

To read the full insights and analysis from the study, visit oup.com.au/soft-skills.

Photo by Jopwell from Pexels