Why soft skills in the workplace will be more important than ever
When I was at Liverpool University in the late 1980s, soft skills were not taught. We were taught hard skills like how to spay a cat. These were the important skills to teach to a young veterinary student. The other things you either had or you didn’t! Of course, we all expect our vets to be able to spay our cats or the pilots to be able to fly us safely to our holiday destination. However, over the last 30 years there has been an increased expectation that these professionals will also have excellent soft skills too. One definition of soft skills is, “the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”. These attributes enable the person to succeed in the workplace. This does not come naturally to all people. However, it is possible to recognise the skills that one needs and then practise them in the same way that Benjamin Franklin practised , his virtues throughout his life. If your values are purpose-centred, you are likely to be able to be empathetic and genuine with people who will be more likely to trust you. If a person is deceitful to curry favour with a client in order to win a contract that he does not mean to honour, his reputation will proceed him. In today’s business world, it is more about relationships and partnerships than it has ever been, and businesses want to work with people that they know, like and trust. Clients don’t care how much you know but rather, want to know how much you care, it’s this way of thinking that will succeed in the workplace. The same applies both in business and the Veterinary industry, if you treat clients and their pets kindly as you would like to be treated then people will reciprocate. Soft skills are vital in the workplace and will help make your interactions with clients and team members more pleasant. So, how do you approach soft skills as a manager? Managers should look to value their employees and treat them as a collaborator in the business as opposed to a number or machine. What’s more, managers that are enlightened and empathetic in their management style will be rewarded by greater loyalty and productivity as well as reducing staff turnover. Many of the complaints that are sent to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons are not about incompetent work but rather failures in communication. This is such an important soft skill. Having a clear, understandable voice will make communication so much simpler. However, communication is so much more than that. It’s also about valuing people enough to actively listen to them as well. If you look bored listening to them or are not attentive this will obviously reduce the effectiveness of any communication. The art of persuasion is another very important skill in business. It’s important that this soft skill is honed. Successful businesses will have well rounded sales teams who persuade by showing the value of their product in concise, interesting presentations that answer the prospect’s objections before they have fully formed them. It should also be a skill that is honed by not just the team but also its manager. After all, the best way for employees to learn these all important soft skills is from the top. Another important soft skill is teamwork. Team is an acronym for Together Everybody Achieves More but can be challenging. We all know offices that have a toxic environment where competition and backstabbing are the norm. These businesses can never be successful. They will never be happy places to work in. While these sort of environments are encouraged in some businesses like banks or investment firms, surely they can never be satisfying places to work if the only purpose is to make money. Teamwork is altruistic. It happens when people serve each other for the greater good. Within that synergy, something magical happens and more is achieved, and everyone is more productive. Finally, when the going gets tough and things go wrong, leaders want to see people who are agile and flexible; prepared to put in the extra hours and take responsibility for their actions rather than trying to blame others for their own inadequacies. Business owners are usually entrepreneurs. They are used to failing both personally and corporately and will want to see employees who are capable of recognising this, accepting it as part of their lives and, crucially, learning from it. Soft skills have always been important and treating co-workers and clients well has always paid dividends. In our increasingly demanding marketplace, a person with excellent soft skills will become a real asset for the business. Training for soft skills at undergraduate level and within the workplace with the help of wise mentors is a sensible investment.
Anthony Chadwick, a serial entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of The Webinar Vet, the largest online veterinary education provider in the world. He is one of the most recognised and respected thought leaders in the UK veterinary sector.
Anthony founded The Webinar Vet in 2010, when the word webinar was not in the veterinary dictionary. A vet by trade, whilst at an internet conference he spotted a gap in the market to make veterinary education and training more accessible and affordable, via the medium of webinars. Trailblazers in the industry, the company grew very quickly and now has over 70,000 veterinary professionals accessing the training in over 120 countries. Students currently spend a combined annual total of approximately 200,000 hours a year training on the site.