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Rachel Wells’ All You Need To Know About Soft Skills Vs. Power Skills

Rachel Wells’ All You Need To Know About Soft Skills Vs. Power Skills 

Rachel Wells

Some call them soft skills. Others call them power skills. But is there a difference and does it really matter? And if it does, why? If you’ve been browsing through LinkedIn, preparing for an upcoming job interview, or career planning for a promotion, no doubt you’ve heard of the popular terms, “soft skills” and “hard skills.”

“Soft skills” can be classified as being more human-centered, transferable, intangible, and non-technical by nature, while hard skills are the more measurable, technical aspects of a role that are job-specific capabilities. These are the two core sets of skills you will need to succeed at any stage of your career. A strategic combination of soft skills and hard skills is what enables you to land a promotion, receive a pay rise, obtain new business opportunities, make a career pivot, and build and sustain valuable professional relationships and business connections.

The term “soft skills” is said by Reuters to have originated back in the U.S. military in the mid-20th century. “The military has excelled in training troops on how to use the necessary equipment, but military leaders discovered that how a group of soldiers was led, had a lot to do with the group’s success.” In other words, the military came to the realization that the intangible how (the leadership skills that were demonstrated by the highest ranking officers), were perhaps just as necessary to the success of its operations as were the physical combat skills.

Over the past few years, however, soft skills has been rebranded to power skills, as with the recent example of Udemy Business’s 2022 Workplace Learning Trends Report. Since the term was coined, it has rapidly gained in popularity—but has also been a cause for dissension, as professionals worldwide are split between the appropriate usage of these terms. Should we use the term “soft skills,” or should we define them as power skills?

What Are Soft Skills?
Whenever the term “soft skills” is used, it is usually meant to refer to personal attributes and interpersonal skills that enable you to easily get along well and collaborate with others, maintain a healthy work ethic, and render you more effective in your role. Some examples of the most essential soft skills desired in the workforce today include:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability and resilience

In fact, when listing “skills on the rise” in its Future of Jobs Report 2023, the World Economic Forum listed many of the above skills, and other soft skills such as curiosity and attention to detail dominated the list.

Why Power Skills?
Perhaps one of the most profound statements on the topic of soft skills was made by Josh Bersin when he said in 2019, “Hard skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and soft skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain).”

Power skills are the newly popularized term for soft skills, because many experts like Bersin say that soft skills are the most important and hardest skills to build in the world of business, and rightfully so.

A good comparison would be a car and its fuel. The car is the “hard” element that gets the job done. It carries you from A to B. But the fuel is what gets it moving. Without this fuel, having a car is pointless. The same goes for your career. To really get ahead and maximize your use of your “hard skills,” you need to be optimistic, have an attitude of curiosity, be able to communicate effectively and build relationships with others.

Power skills—the new soft skills—are what enables organizations, their leaders and managers, and even those in non-leadership positions, to thrive. Many businesses fail, not because they lack the infrastructure or technology, but due to a downfall resulting from their low prioritization of these essential skills that power the economy.

It’s time to pay closer attention to upskilling yourself and your teams with power skills. Compliance and technical training on how to use the updated software system that just rolled in is important. But equally essential is the time you take as a leader or manager to develop your own power skills, and investing in upskilling your team to do the same.

Perhaps there is a great deal of wisdom we can glean from the U.S. military of the 1950s. We can even go as far as to say that the greatest power in the world of business is not facts, figures, systems, and processes, but the people behind them who leverage these hard qualities (or shall we call them “soft” like Bersin) with their power skills.

Rachel Wells the writer is an Award-winning serial Entrepreneur and Leadership Expert.

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