The Top 8 In-Demand Soft Skills in 2023
Workplaces today aren't as linearly structured as they used to be. Cross-departmental collaboration, virtual networks, and a huge pool of competent talent that transcends geographical boundaries necessitate a well-balanced mix of both cognitive and emotional skills. It is these soft skills that are increasingly being identified as a critical component of success in the workplace.
But What Exactly Are Soft Skills?
In essence, soft skills are personal or social skills that are considered desirable in the workplace. In contrast to hard skills, which are easily measurable and more technical in nature, soft skills identify an individual's ability to work well with others and be adaptable to changing situations.
Why Are Soft Skills Important in 2023?
Every job description is now more than just a list of requirements and identification of the skills that a candidate will bring to the organisation. It is also a living, breathing document that evolves with the marketplace trends, the organisation's strategic goals, and the intrinsic needs of its employees.
Some organisations have already been emphasising soft skills as a critical component of their recruiting strategies. Take Google, for example. Their interviews assess behaviour, leadership, and personality as much as technical capabilities and field-specific knowledge.
In 2023, this approach is becoming more pervasive owing to the democratisation of technology that has lowered the entry barrier to innovation, the prevalent economic downturn that has led to layoffs and a war for talent, and the shift of focus from core technical acumen to overall leadership skills.
So, What are the Top In-Demand Soft Skills in 2023?
A lot of literature has been published, especially over the last two decades, elucidating how emotional intelligence is the basis for nurturing soft skills and advancing decision-making capabilities. The latter has been of particular interest to the corporate sector, and understandably so. For example, a 2022 study affirmed that emotional intelligence was vital to enhancing an employee's performance, as they could readily make apt decisions.
Research has even established the connection between emotional intelligence and reduction in stress, individual success, general intelligence, empathetic display, job satisfaction, and more. But would this qualify as a top skill in 2023? It absolutely will.
Besides, amid an uncertain economic climate where people are being laid off and unemployment rates are at an all-time high, emotional sensitivity and the ability to detect subtle emotional reactions is imperative.
Grammarly recently conducted a survey to understand the state of business communication, and the results were quite in favour of fostering healthy workplace communication. About 72% of business leaders agreed that effective communication led to an increase in workplace productivity. 60% even correlated communication with employee confidence. 54% of the knowledge workers, on the other hand, outlined that their relationships with colleagues have improved as a result of effective communication.
Today, communication skills pertaining to building rapport, collaborating with others, and being able to successfully manage workplace conflicts are on the rise. For this reason, there has been an inclination towards coaching and training programs — even for leaders.
So, for those trying to enter their respective fields or endeavouring to sustain their existing positions, working on improving communication — whether oral or written — is critical. Now, you also have generative AI tools (like ChatGPT) on your side to refine your interactions. So, it's easier than ever to get to a respectable level in this regard.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Cuing back to the notion of uncertain economic times, looming recession, and job layoffs, adaptability is a key skill to possess. This doesn't only entail someone being able to make the most out of any given situation, but also the ability to roll with any punches the future may bring.
This is a skill that has been becoming mainstream for the past few years now. Much can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting remote and hybrid work culture — which is still the norm across several organisations worldwide. Amid the pandemic, McKinsey studied the role of adaptability in helping people navigate tough scenarios. The consulting giant found out that there is, indeed, a profound relationship between adaptability and a person's ability to succeed during "periods of transformation and systemic change."
In 2023, such a system change will be inevitable. In the midst of an extreme shift in the workplace due to emerging technologies and economic downturn, it will be of paramount importance for employees to be adaptive and flexible.
There's no discounting the fact that effective leadership skills are critical for just about any industry today. But, this is especially true for growing businesses that are tied to investor pressure on one end and seek to foster innovation on the other.
Besides, it's not just the responsibility of the managerial team to provide leadership (though that is a major part of it). Leadership skills are crucial for all departments in a business — from the front-end to middle- and back-end teams. These skills must be pervasive in order for a business to thrive and flourish.
It is from this perspective that there will be a premium on effective leadership skills in 2023. The opportunity further transpires from the fact that more than 70% of businesses find it difficult to land competent people. Much of that can be attributed to a dearth of leadership capabilities.
Going forward, the ability to lead teams that are diverse, even though they may be geographically dispersed, will be critical.
Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking
The job market is more competitive than it has ever been. About 2,10,200 employees have been laid off in 2023 alone at the time of writing this article. So, if you're looking for a job, it's one of those times when you should double down on your skills and strengths.
Problem-solving is the first thing that comes to one's mind when this topic is broached, and rightly so. Businesses in 2023 need quick resolutions to issues rather than long-drawn-out solutions to customer problems. There's a high premium on critical thinking, as well. The ability to critically analyse information in order to make the right decisions is invaluable.
Consider the example of the tech space. Out of the 183 startups in Y Combinator's first 2023 batch, 51 were AI-focused. Everyone wants a share of the AI pie. In order to keep up with the times, people will be trained and retrained. But does that necessarily mean they will lose touch with traditional skills? Not at all.
This is a time when you have to be well-rounded. And having core problem-solving skills to fall back on will be a great edge.
Collaboration and Teamwork
"For too long, workplace friendships have been left to chance. Yet the research is clear: feeling connected to our colleagues elevates productivity, reduces turnover, and fosters better teamwork," writes the award-winning psychologist Ron Friedman in Harvard Business Review.
An increase in workplace camaraderie translates into a better, happier workforce that is able to collaborate and innovate. And that's due to a variety of reasons:
- For one, it fosters trust and helps avoid workplace clashes
- It can also help as an antidote to conciliation and conflict
- It bolsters creativity
- It nurtures a more positive work environment
- It's great for the morale
With the advent of new technologies that are poised to further transform the workplace, collaboration skills will be in more demand than ever before. Shared goals and shared endeavours are going to be pivotal in building businesses — no matter the size of each operation. Friedman furthers the value of collaboration by stressing that "shared goals can also foster team-building outside the office."
Time Management and Organisation
James Clear famously said in his book Atomic Habits - "Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits."
One of the most underrated aspects of being an employable entity is being disciplined in the way you go about your day-to-day activities. And it's not just about being able to set goals and reach deadlines. Rather, it's about being able to manage time in such a way to achieve the important things.
The ability to organise is crucial, too (and that may not necessarily be tied to time). It involves being able to get rid of the clutter from your desk, inbox, etc. It means having your files in order and being able to locate things when needed. It's also not all about tangible things, though. It's also about being organised and methodical in your thinking.
To say that time management and organisation are in-demand in 2023 would be an understatement. They are, in fact, the rudimentary (yet the most challenging) building blocks of success in any industry.
Resilience and Stress Management
Let's say you're working in an organisation that pursues servant leadership. For sure, the manager's attitude is a critical factor — as it introduces the notion of servant leadership and its underlying culture. Even in the testing times, you will have people to fall back on and outline the problems you are facing.
But how often does a workplace actually have the chance to bask in the glory of such a leadership style? It's much more common for people to be put in situations that are less than desirable. They might be asked to do work that they don't enjoy doing, or they may have to interact with people who rub them the wrong way.
Understanding and having the ability to cope with stress is what matters. If you have a high tolerance for adversity, the odds are that you will have an easier time dealing with stressful situations. The ability to remain positive in the face of adversity, and having the ability to remain level-headed, are going to be highly valued.
In a Nutshell
The worldwide workforce is in for some big changes in 2023. What's more, many of these changes are not necessarily going to be pleasant. But if you look at them as opportunities (rather than as threats), you might just find yourself positioned well to take advantage of the changes. The soft skills listed above are but a few of those that will be highly prized and valued.