The Top 8 Most In-Demand Soft Skills to Increase Business Value

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Last week, we looked at a case study to explore why hiring for in-demand soft skills is often the better decision when comparing two similar candidates. 

Forward-thinking business owners know that increasing the value of their business today is the key to a successful and fulfilling exit tomorrow.

What they may not be aware of is the positive impact that human capital has on the long-term desirability and, ultimately, the price a buyer is willing to pay to own the business.

By bringing high-quality talent onboard, nurturing their abilities, and ensuring they stay engaged in the success of the company, buyers are willing to overlook aspects that decrease the value of your business, knowing that you’ve invested in creating a team that all but guarantees the company will continue to thrive once you’ve left the helm. 

8 In-Demand Soft Skills That Increase Business Value

During the time you have left before you exit your business, turn the focus of your recruitment and hiring practices towards bringing these in-demand soft skills to your team:

Flexibility

This soft skill helps an employee take on complicated projects, adjust quickly to change, and maintain a positive outlook in times of uncertainty. 

Employees who are skilled in flexibility recognize that every situation has parts they can control and parts they cannot, so they spend their time ensuring that the tasks within their sphere of influence don’t contribute to adverse outcomes. 

What It Looks Like

  • Breaking away from their everyday routine to help solve a time-sensitive problem
  • Working well with a variety of personalities 
  • Being proactive when possible and reactive when necessary
  • Handling stressful situations with urgency and a level-head
  • “Going with the flow.” 

What It Sounds Like

  • “I’m not sure how to do that, but I’m more than happy to learn.”
  • “Today’s been busy, but it’s a fun change of pace.”
  • “Whatever happens, happens. We just need to be ready for any outcome.”

Curiosity

While it’s often a trait associated with children, curiosity is an innate drive to learn new things, something that should continue throughout our lives. 

Curious employees are an excellent asset because you can rest assured they are constantly soaking up information from as many sources as they can. 

Because of that compulsion to understand everything around them, curious people aren’t afraid to ask questions, inevitably resulting in better-informed decision-making and task completion.

What It Looks Like

  • Active, eager listening
  • Asking questions that deepen understanding
  • Takes as many opportunities as they can to pursue training across a variety of skills
  • Determined to succeed
  • Energized when faced with new challenges

What It Sounds Like

  • “I wonder what would happen if…”
  • “Let’s dig down into some research before we make a decision.”
  • “Have you listened to this new podcast? It’s a fascinating perspective on that topic.”

Collaboration/Teamwork

Collaboration as a soft skill goes beyond being able to function as a member of a team.

A true collaborator knows how to communicate, empathize, and affirm so that each person on the team feels validated in the importance of their role within the larger group.

Collaborators also acknowledge the contributions and strengths of others, recognizing that the diversity of a team is one of its greatest assets. 

What It Looks Like

  • Holding themselves and others accountable
  • Making commitments and sticking to them
  • Genuine interest is what others have to say
  • Welcoming many perspectives
  • Communicating in a productive, constructive way

What It Sounds Like

  • “Let’s decide as a team.”
  • “Is there anything I can do to help?”
  • “Angela already has experience in Photoshop, so she’d be a great resource for creating the report graphics.”

Emotional Intelligence

Often called EI or EQ, emotional intelligence encompasses four essential abilities:

  • Perceiving emotions in yourself and others
  • Reasoning with emotions in yourself and others
  • Understanding emotions in yourself and others
  • Managing emotions in yourself and others

Emotional intelligence is perhaps one of the most difficult in-demand soft skills to learn, as it requires both interpersonal empathy and introspective reflection that people tend to develop through childhood. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth cultivating in your employees, even if it doesn’t come naturally. 

According to the trusted mental health resource Verywell Mind, “Factors such as upbringing and personality tend to play a large role in the development of emotional intelligence, but it is a skill that can be improved with effort and practice.”

What It Looks Like

  • Maintaining calm when faced with confrontation or stress
  • Being receptive to constructive criticism
  • Recognizing the motivation behind other people’s behavior
  • Assertive communication style
  • An upbeat but realistic attitude about tackling demanding projects or problems

What It Sounds Like

  • “Paul is going to be out for a few days to help his mom recover from her surgery. Let’s honor that responsibility and avoid emailing him during this difficult time.”
  • “I know that you’ve already had a tough day. Would you like to reschedule our meeting for tomorrow to take something off of your plate?”
  • “Please let me know if there is any tool or resource you need to make this task less overwhelming.”

Creativity

Despite often being oversimplified as someone’s artistic talents, creativity as a workplace soft skill actually has more to do with the ability to think divergently to solve problems. 

Instead of relying on the same processes and procedures, creative people tend to be big picture thinkers who can pull together resources and information in novel ways to accomplish a task. 

Micromanagement and rigor are creativity killers, so be sure that your employees have the space to think through and solve problems without fear of management pushback. 

What It Looks Like

  • Investment and engagement in their work
  • Seeking frequent, honest feedback
  • Valuing both collaboration and independence
  • Daring and courage in supporting their ideas
  • Seeing the success in failure

What It Sounds Like

  • “I just had an idea I’d like to run past you.”
  • “What if we kicked off our team meeting with a brainstorming session? I think combining the best parts of everyone’s ideas will create the most holistic solution.”
  • “Can you show me how to use that software? I was trying to figure out the best way to make this data more visually appealing, and I think that program is perfect for the job.”

Courage

In a traditional, autocratic corporate hierarchy, courage is very rarely a trait that management wants to cultivate in their subordinates, as it tends to open the door for unwanted pushback and “boat rocking” that gets in the way of tradition. 

On the other hand, innovative businesses tend to welcome those who take the initiative, speak up, and dare to take on new challenges. They see empowering their employees as an essential piece of creating a flexible workforce that bravely faces obstacles and turns them into opportunities. 

What It Looks Like

  • Thinking about problems as puzzles to solve rather than roadblocks to success
  • Speaking up when something goes against the workplace culture or personal values
  • Defending others who are less inclined to stand up for themselves
  • A sense of eagerness and excitement about their work
  • A “why not try?” mindset instead of a “what if I fail?” mindset

What It Sounds Like

  • “Risks keep things interesting!”
  • “I’d like the opportunity to finish my pitch before you offer critique, as I’ve already thought through how to address many of the pain points we’ll face.”
  • “We may not have the answer yet, but I can guarantee we’ll figure it out.”

Conflict Resolution

Disagreements are inevitable in the workplace, whether it’s a matter of misunderstanding or blatant instigation. 

As such, one of the most highly-valued soft skills is conflict resolution, the process of quickly and peacefully resolving a situation, hopefully in a way that ends with both parties satisfied.

Those who possess this skill are also aware that there’s a time and a place when mediation is necessary and are willing to engage in that process. 

What It Looks Like

  • Attentiveness to the effect that their body language might have on other’s perceptions
  • Frank, but not aggressive, communication
  • Perspective-taking
  • Ability to facilitate other people’s conflicts and find common ground
  • Awareness of situations where different points of view might clash

What It Sounds Like

  • “What do you need to feel like we’ve reached a fair compromise?
  • “I’m going to step away from this situation because I feel like it’s going to continue to escalate otherwise.”
  • “Thank you for letting me know that I upset you. I apologize for putting you in that position. In the future, I would appreciate it if you would let me know as soon as possible so that I can be more aware of my behaviors.”

Communication

Last but certainly not least, communication is the foundation of all other in-demand soft skills. Without the ability to articulate effectively, listen actively, and regulate body language, workplace harmony isn’t possible. 

Instead, misunderstandings and unchecked emotions abound, creating an unsafe, unproductive workplace environment for everyone involved. 

Communication skills extend beyond face-to-face interactions, especially in our interconnected world. The same sense of warmth, respect, and confidence must be conveyed regardless of where the communication is happening. 

What It Looks Like

  • Choosing the appropriate medium for communication-based on the topic and seriousness
  • Acknowledging the value of what others have to say
  • Maintaining a professional but warm demeanor
  • Avoiding passive aggression in favor of transparency and concision
  • Knowing when it’s time to listen and empathize rather than talk and advise

What It Sounds Like

  • “I’d like to hear your perspective before I share mine, so I can understand your motivations for what you said.”
  • “When you have a few minutes, I’d like to sit down for a face-to-face about your recent growth and how I can continue to support you.”
  • “Our client report is due the same day as your requested PTO. I  wanted to ask if you’d consider moving your appointment so we can benefit from your expertise as the project wraps up. If that’s not possible, know that I recognize this as a big ask and respect your decision.”

In-Demand Soft Skills Create Sustainable Business Growth

For business owners who struggle to see the value of investing in soft skill training, this analogy might prove helpful:

If technical skills are the nails we need to get the job done, soft skills are the hammer that allows us to use those nails in a meaningful, productive way. 

When teams are built based on their technical abilities alone, it won’t take long for arguments, passive aggression, and a lack of collaborative efforts to sow the seeds of discord in the group. Soft skills create an environment where employees can put their technical abilities to good use in a safe, welcoming, and innovative setting. 

Is your current team bring long-term strategic value to your business? Would they be worth a premium sale price once you’re ready to exit? Let’s chat and find out!

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