3 Soft Skills That Will Be In High Demand In the Future of Business
We live in an era of inevitable digital transformation – a culture shifting towards virtual reality shopping, self-driven delivery cars, and instant data transformation for personalized advertising. While many people think that exponentially growing AI technology and machine learning will replace jobs in industries like customer service, marketing, sales, and more, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. In fact, according to a recent CCW special report, certain software like chatbots, voice tech, geotargeting, augmented reality etc. will more likely be used to aid both customer-facing and digital-based employees. However, that doesn’t mean climbing the corporate ladder won’t be competitive or that the skills needed to be successful aren’t changing.
The IBM Institute for Business Value recently surveyed approximately 5,670 executives across 48 countries to learn more about the skills needed to execute business strategies. According to the research, technical and digital skills (hard skills like data engineering) are still in high demand, but executives are beginning to place the highest priority on behavioral skills (or soft skills), like the newest internationally accepted form of intelligence. Emotional intelligence is quickly gaining traction in psychology labs and HR departments in businesses across the globe
According to USC applied psychology, emotional intelligence helps leaders motivate and inspire good work by understanding others’ motivations. “It brings more individuals to the table and helps avoid the many pitfalls of groupthink, empowers leaders to recognize and act on opportunities others may be unaware of, and can produce higher morale and assist others in tapping their professional potential.” With even the most highly technical roles now including efficient communication with external departments and diverse stakeholders, recognizing others’ moods and motivations is like a new form of corporate literacy.
Like any skill, the key to gaining emotional intelligence is training - cognitively recognizing one’s own thought processes, emotions, and biases and putting personal worries about status aside in order to create personalized connections and make optimal business decisions.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “During periods of conflict and uncertainty, we’re receptive to so-called hard messengers, who demonstrate dominance or assert their status. During more stable times, soft messengers, who display warmth, vulnerability, and trustworthiness, are more likely to win us over. Thus, one secret of effective influencers is that they prime their audience to feel a certain way and then tailor their persuasion techniques to match the audience’s state of mind.”
In a corporate setting filled with automation and digital tools at our fingertips, brands, specifically in the contact center, will be differentiated by their ability to personalize interactions and persuade customers. But in order to do that, businesses need to understand situational context with emotional intelligence. Is a customer completely uncertain and needing to be told what he or she needs? Or is the customer in a more secure state of mind, possibly skeptical about an expensive product, and needs to be won over through genuine trust and support?
In the same HBR article, Jason Harris, the CEO of ad agency Mekanism, and author of The Soulful Art of Persuasion: The 11 Habits That Will Make Anyone a Master Influencer shares his views. According to Harris, the key to persuasion is also an even deeper form of personalization and can be found in working on four “personal dispositions”: originality, generosity, empathy, and soulfulness. Striving for these character traits will lead to a rewarding and fulfilling life. “That they will also make you more influential in a wide range of situations is largely a side benefit,” he adds.
“Side benefit” … interesting choice of words. People may have a negative disposition towards the term “persuasion,” associating the skill with sleazy deception. But Mekanism (remember, a successful CEO of an advertising enterprise – not a philanthropist) argues that these genuine personalized dispositions are the most influential factors when it comes to persuading. And as automation continues to grow across industries, soft skills like emotional intelligence and persuasion will be in high demand.
Reflecting on a casual 31 percent growth in Q4 of 2018, executive vice president and European general manager of Salesforce, Chris Ciauri, said “I believe people learn to be adaptable through experience and that comes from a culture that encourages change… It's my role to make sure that the leaders and their teams know that they have permission to be agile and make decisions that are right for our customers in response to changes.”
Learning a new CRM system or a data engineering tweak can be frustrating and time consuming for employees, especially as technology trends continue to rapidly emerge in upcoming years. However, adaptability is a soft skill that helps employees navigate evolving industries and changing workplaces. Being able to adapt is a conscious mindset inspired by company culture, where, as Ciauri says, are centered around “making decisions that are right for our customers.”
Leaders who give employees freedom to experiment and inspire co-workers to be agile create adaptive cultures that spark efficiency and differentiate themselves from other brands.
Want to learn more on the future of customer centricity? Tune in to our live event, The Contact Center of 2025, on December 3rd and 4th. Get ahead of competitors and introduce yourself to analysts’ predictions and upcoming cutting-edge trends at our complimentary online summit.