I’m not going to waste your time talking about how ingrained technology is in all our lives. You may be reading this on your smartphone while killing time at work, where you stare at a separate screen for hours, only to drive home and turn on another screen to relax.
Or maybe you’re rewarding yourself with a little down time after seeing your Fitbit has recorded an extra 1,000 steps today. Or your kid is using the computer, so you’re tethered to the wall by the tablet charging cable, looking for a well-written blog post. Or maybe you’re not, but the point is that you could see yourself, or anyone, in that situation.
This obsession with technology has led to an explosion of never-conceived businesses and jobs. Social media, IT departments, software development, data security, the list goes on, and we’re only going to become more dependent as time goes on.
Organizations estimate that one-third of their human resources budgets are delegated for hiring IT talent; computer science majors experience a 76% increase in their salary in just the first three years. Clearly, the stats all say that hard tech skills are what job seekers should be focusing on. Except that’s not the whole story.
With connectivity comes complexity
As technology becomes more and more ingrained in our lives, so does its complexity. No one outside of a calculus classroom carries a phone and a calculator. Some of us rarely turn on a PC anymore, since our smartphones are sufficient for quick browsing. Our cars come enabled with Bluetooth.
Soon, every household appliance will be connected to a singular device, which we will also use to send messages, pay for groceries, tell our car where to take us, open our front door, monitor our daily steps, and automatically remind us of appointments- and it already does most of that.
But as the interconnectivity and complexity of technology rises, our ability to understand it decreases. We can’t keep up with the constant stream of our own inventions. While specialists might be able to fully utilize every software update, most of us can’t be bothered to learn all the nuances every time.
That’s why IT is such an emerging field, but even they won’t be able to keep up with the coming technological evolutions. As Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner, says, “Our best hope may be that computers eventually will become smart enough to maintain themselves.”
Importance of soft skills
Where does that leave business now? While you certainly can’t forego employees with the technical skills that you need, you need soft skills now more than ever. According to an Adecco Staffing survey, there are twice as many business executives concerned with the soft skill gap than those worried about hard skills.
Traits like communication and critical thinking are becoming more highly valued than straight computer skills. Some businesses that require their employees to have technical know-how, like engineering firms, have tried to ignore soft skills in favor of some desperately sought-after experience, but this is no longer possible.
In fact, it’s commercial acumen, communication skills, and adaptability that employers should be prioritizing. Adaptability is especially useful in a world where technology is constantly evolving, and, realistically, malfunctioning. Sometimes things do not go to plan, and employees need to take that in stride.
Similarly, it won’t matter how well you understand CSS or can fix a pipe if no one can relate to you. Google provides consumers with ten options on just the first page, and they will reject your business if they can’t communicate with your employees. Additionally, your business will also suffer if your employees can effectively communicate with each other.
It’s important to provide employees with both soft and hard skill training. This can be expensive and time-consuming, so you will have to strike a balance particular to you. If you work in an industry that the hard skills can be learned on the job or fairly quickly, make sure you’re searching for candidates with appropriate soft skills.
However, if your employees must have hard skills before they walk through the door, that doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore soft skills entirely. Offer soft skill training and assessments, because while soft skills are more difficult to measure, they are just as important.
That holds true even in this technological age. We may cling to our iEverythings, but only because they allow us to tap into humanity. Your business needs to utilize this underlying need.
People may pay for your product or service if you can deliver, but using the human element gives you that much more leverage. In a world where your competitors are accessible at the click of a mouse, you’ll need all the soft skills you can get.
Author: Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun. She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.