Soft Skills for a Successful Workforce

Jeremy L. Hill Commentary

Soft Skills for a Successful Workforce
Workplace/worker success illustration (Shutterstock)

What does the next generation need to be successful in the workforce? Is it digital fluency? Or a well-rounded education?

Turns out, it's soft skills like resiliency, problem-solving and creativity.

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Right now, there are more than 10 million job openings in the U.S. The data clearly shows that American companies need workers now. But, just as importantly, business owners say they need capable employees who can hit the ground running, ideally without the expense or time of additional training.

This may seem like an unsolvable problem. However, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, suggests a solution: employers should focus on equipping individuals with foundational skills that will allow them to thrive in their jobs, now and in the “future world of work.” Along with digital-focused competencies, these include cognitive, interpersonal, and self-leadership capabilities.

Unfortunately, McKinsey says human resources professionals often have difficulty recruiting candidates with these attributes. More than a third pinpoint problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity as in-demand but “missing” soft skills in potential employees.

So, how can we address the gap? We can encourage our state’s higher education institutions to weave the use of soft skills into their teaching methods and degree requirements. We can also deploy or expand innovative workforce development programs in our communities.

City Year Little Rock is a perfect example. Each year, we recruit AmeriCorps members, ages 17-25, to serve as student success coaches. These dedicated young adults work alongside educators at our local K-12 partner schools to provide central Arkansas kids with academic, emotional and social support to achieve their full potential. At the same time, they bolster their own career readiness by participating in regular personal and professional development opportunities.

Through their experience, they learn to manage their time, build relationships, work as a team and thrive in fast-paced, challenging environments.

As City Year knows firsthand, instilling soft skills in our workforce doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a collective commitment, consistent effort and continued investments. But by prioritizing and promoting skills like effective communication or adaptability, whether through college curricula or nonprofit programs like ours, we can set workers—and the businesses and organizations that depend on them—up for long-term success.

Jeremy L. Hill is the chief of staff for City Year Little Rock, an education nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed.