Social Skills: What Are They And How Do We Develop Them?

Social skills: what are they and how do we develop them?

Some people see social skills as important, positive qualities. But what is this type of competency about? Well, these skills are essentially geared towards the world of work. The opposite of these “soft skills” are what are known as “hard skills”.

Professional skills relate to formally acquired knowledge. It is the knowledge that we have gained during our training at certain institutes. These skills can be certified with a title or diploma.

“What is really important for success, character, happiness and lifelong achievement are certain emotional skills – our EQ – and not just purely cognitive skills, which are measured with conventional IQ tests.”

Daniel Goleman

In order to put what we have learned into practice, however, we use social skills. That is, social skills are not what we learn in our formal training. They are what we acquire through practice, experience and reflection. These skills are closely related to our attitudes, values ​​and everything else that comes into play in our work.

Employees having a relaxed chat in the office

Social skills are in

More and more companies are talking about soft skills. This is why many of the most prestigious companies place great importance on these skills when selecting their employees. Many companies are convinced that what is really important for the work environment and productivity are social skills, and not necessarily intellectual skills.

For this reason, teamwork and communication skills are very important in HR departments. Both are important in order to avoid conflicts or to deal with them appropriately. Because work groups in which everyone only thinks of themselves are bad for the working atmosphere. Something similar happens when personal interests and misunderstandings cause conflicts on a daily basis.

Social skills also include values. The most sought after values ​​in the job market are honesty, responsibility and commitment. Because an applicant with great talent is worthless if he shows no commitment. That is why it is important for companies to be able to count on people who are enthusiastic about their daily work.

Creativity is just as important. The ability to solve problems and come up with innovative ideas is invaluable in the world of work.

A case study

LinkedIn, a social network for people at work and job seekers, has researched this topic in various companies. The aim of the corresponding study was to find out how important HR departments were social compared to professional skills.

Outlines of employees with the LinkedIn logo hovering over them

The results of this study, in which 291 HR directors were interviewed, confirmed hypotheses from industrial psychology. One of the first results was that many companies had no problems at all in finding technically competent candidates. But it was much more difficult for these firms to find candidates with well-developed social skills. The social skills that were valued most were communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, sociability, creativity, adaptability and friendliness.

Those responsible for employee selection described considerable difficulties in finding people with a higher education and the same skills. “You either have one or the other,”   said one of the respondents. This reflects the fact that formal education places more emphasis on a person’s intellect than on personality.

Social skills are crucial

The study also found that there are a particularly large number of people with good social skills in some professions. This is particularly true in the areas of education, health, sports, advice, marketing and tourism.

A woman plays the violin by the sea.

Interestingly, soft skills are harder to find in other professions, such as arts, music, photography, and law enforcement. This is amazing because in theory, areas like the arts and law enforcement require more empathy and imagination. However, the study says that it is precisely in these fields of work that it is more difficult to find candidates who combine knowledge and social skills with work values.

Finally, the study found that many workers lack emotional intelligence. They rate the IQ as much more important, although other qualities are also in demand. This applies in particular to teamwork. But the good news is that we can learn the social skills that are so important in the world of work. It’s worth it because they can help us succeed.

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