If you’re seeking a promotion, a raise, or a new job, your personal brand needs to take center stage, communicating not just your skills but also what’s unique about the way you deliver those skills. Which skills are in demand right now? According to a 2019 IBM report, today’s employers are looking for team members who have a blend of digital skills and soft skills. The good news for professionals is that those two categories increasingly overlap.
That might seem counterintuitive. After all, soft skills are character traits and behavioral patterns that stoke our interpersonal relationships. They’re fundamentally human qualities, so how could they possibly be tied to technical prowess?
The answer lies in the fact that evaluating soft skills has always been challenging. In fact, it’s one of the trickiest parts of talent management — figuring out what kind of person you’re considering hiring or promoting. That’s where tech savviness enters the equation. The same technologies that make soft skills so valuable also provide a way to put your soft skills in the spotlight. Employees who are eager to boost their value as teammates (while bolstering their personal brand) must have a tech tool kit to work with.
What kind of soft skills do employers want? In IBM’s report, adaptability, time management, cooperation, communication, and creativity are all included. These skills represent areas that technology hasn’t been able to truly replicate. With smarter and more autonomous machines being developed all the time, tech has taken over countless tasks, so employers need fewer workers to handle routine, repeatable processes. But they do need humans to handle everything else, making soft skills more important than ever. Ironically, leaning into such technologies as artificial intelligence and machine learning, you can show off the promising personal traits that make you a workplace asset. Consider these examples:
1. Use Collaboration Tools to Prove Your People Focus
Tomorrow’s workers need to excel at person-to-person interactions. With machines automating so much else, human collaboration is becoming a valued skill, so professionals who are engaging and empathetic will thrive. Collaboration tools make it possible to forge relationships with anyone, anywhere.
Videoconferencing with someone, for example, lets you connect differently than in email or phone interactions. “Looking at someone when you speak to them is not only good etiquette, but it helps your brain to remember the key details of the conversation,” says Cory Treffiletti, global head of marketing at Cisco Webex. “The more you focus on people, the more you are able to connect with them, and connection builds relationships.” Sometimes proving your empathetic capacity is as easy as following up a call with a virtual coffee invite. Technology offers countless avenues for you to foster connections and build relationships for the future.
2. Use Messaging Tools to Promote Inclusivity
Udemy’s 2020 Workplace Learning Trends report indicates that cultural awareness is another top soft skill to master in 2020, but you don’t have to be in HR to make your organization more inclusive. A RedThread Research-Mercer study shows how inclusivity technology can transform organizations by enabling on-the-ground action. “With the explosion of awareness has come increased technological innovation to help put that awareness into practice, like sentiment analysis, AI and machine learning, and pattern recognition,” notes Stacia Sherman Garr, co-founder and principal of RedThread Research and one of the study’s authors.
According to the study, 43% of diversity and inclusion tech vendors aim to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. You can use messaging tools to check your bias and be a voice for inclusivity at work: Slack add-ons like Crescendo and Allie will offer educational content, awareness tips, quizzes, and a nonjudgmental space to ask questions or report feedback on company culture. Training and educating yourself with these technologies will make it clear that you’re serious about building meaningful working relationships with colleagues of all cultural backgrounds.
3. Use Publishing Tools to Present Creative Ideas
Creativity can be hard to demonstrate in a business setting. Technology won’t necessarily make it easier to conjure amazing ideas, but it can help you give those ideas a professional polish. For example, apps like Grammarly catch typos and stylistic mistakes to ensure that your writing matches the tone and persuasiveness you desire. Want to master a few graphic design concepts? LinkedIn Learning gives you access to hundreds of pro tips and in-depth software training.
Such tools can help you optimize your creative potential, which is increasingly important both professionally and personally. According to Scott Belsky, chief product officer for Adobe Creative Cloud, “While there is satisfaction in becoming more productive, in the end, you’re just a better cog in a faster machine. The rewards of creativity are far different: self-expression, connection with others, even joy.” Whether you are an account manager or a software engineer, creative thinking will enable you to solve problems in novel ways. It’s the difference between coding and ideating new software. If you can showcase your unique problem-solving ability, you’ll prove your long-term organizational worth.
In the future, professionals with soft skills will rise to the top — as long as they’ve mastered the e-tools that showcase their best human qualities.