Are soft skills becoming more important than technical expertise?

Smiling coworkers collaborating and using soft skills in the workplace


#GoToGetsIT: This article is part of an ongoing series from GoTo’s thought leaders on the frontlines: Our Solutions Consultants deeply understand our customers’ unique challenges and connect the right solutions to meet their goals using GoTo technology. Here, they share their industry knowledge on what it takes to help businesses everywhere thrive in a remote or hybrid world.

As Paul Graham said, “When experts are wrong, it’s often because they’re experts on an earlier version of the world.”

The world has changed a lot in the last few years. We are all experts on the old version and need to learn how to navigate the new era while also getting our companies ready for an unknown future.

The way we work is new – hybrid, remote, and flexible. The way end users interact with companies is different – now they use all-digital channels that must integrate with each other to create a seamless customer (CX) and employee experience (EX), regardless of the channel or device used. Technology is not the same – products are evolving to meet the need of this new remote workforce spread around the world.

It all raises some interesting questions: What are the necessary skills for this moment, and how do we develop them? How can we apply these skills to use technology as our ally? How can we better prepare?

What’s needed now: Soft skills in the workplace

In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, historian Yuval Nohal Harari spotlights two essential skills: Emotional intelligence and a flexible mindset. The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report predicts that by 2025, the most sought-after skills will be complex problem-solving, critical-and system-thinking, working with people and self-management (which includes both active learning strategies and resilience), stress tolerance, and flexibility.

Traditionally, companies have prioritized technical learning and improving on day-to-day tasks over time spent acquiring more knowledge and competencies. Now we're facing a new kind of personal development: It’s not only about learning new things, but also navigating nuanced and complex situations.

A recent Deloitte study on the future of work divided these emerging skills into four categories, with a suggested order of development.

1. First Skills:

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy

2. Entrepreneurial Skills:

  • Curiosity
  • Initiative
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Make it happen

3. Working Skills:

  • Time management
  • Professionalism
  • Presentations / Public speaking
  • Writing
  • Negotiation

4. Technical abilities:

  • Specific skills for each area

As professionals (including IT professionals) develop their soft skills in the workplace, they enhance their technical skills too. This allows them to navigate complexity and be more impactful.

How do we get there?

Today, we need to dedicate time to learning.

“If you’re only focused on putting out fires and attending meetings all day, if you’re unable to set your limits and make time in your schedule to learn, you’re stuck in the present.” – Alex Bretas

Individuals are initially unaware of how little we know or are unconscious of our own incompetence. Eventually we acquire a skill that can be applied without it being consciously thought through. A good place to start is to talk about the current context and the skills needed, shine a light on blind spots, and understand where we are in the journey.

  • What skills do I want to learn?
  • What skills do I need to practice?
  • What skills can I teach and how can they support other people’s development?

By continually encouraging and asking these questions, all individuals of a team can actively learn together.

What is the role of the company in the learning process?

It is up to the company to empower this individual with the right strategies and tools. Companies need to continuously create more opportunities while also removing barriers to learning.

A learning-led organization needs more than just formal training. It needs to create opportunities and provide support for people to have transformational learning experiences. Leadership must ensure that they are creating a safe and encouraging space where learning can take place. Things like soft skills, personal development, context and hypothetical scenarios need to be discussed in regular meetings, planning and reviews.

This mindset shift can start with several simple actions:

  • Invite people to understand and reflect on the skills needed for the next decade.
  • Create opportunities for people to talk about the challenges they are facing and what steps they are taking to solve them.
  • Organize small practice groups where people can learn together and get feedback from each other on certain skills.
  • Connect with projects and people outside the organization where they can apply new skills and receive support.

Where soft skills and technology meet

As the tech environment continues to evolve, there is one thing that will always stay consistent: the importance of soft skills in the workplace, which are becoming much more than nice-to-have.

The digital transformation has impacted all areas of life and business, and as a result technology has become the vehicle for people to use soft skills that were previously relegated to face-to-face encounters. The future is about cultural change and technology is what will support and sustain this journey.

Products like GoTo Connect and GoTo Resolve enable consistent multi-channel remote workforce communication and efficient, personalized support to ensure your business keeps running, with state-of-the-art, future-proof capabilities. These are the types of tech solutions that close the distance gaps between colleagues and customers, putting those soft skills on full display.

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