3 soft skills you’ll need for a post-COVID workforce

There’s a growing demand for certain skills in companies trying to prepare for the future of work - and they’re not all digital. In this article, we cover the human-centric skills that will serve you as we return to the workforce after the pandemic. 

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We’re only a quarter of the way into 2020, and already the world looks unrecognisable. COVID-19 has migrated the entire workforce and student population online, and economic restrictions have impacted career paths in all industries.

But an excellent grasp of technology is not the only thing that’s driving us forward – empathy, resilience and compassionate leadership are proving to be essential for the workforce we now face due to COVID.

In the last few years, soft skills have become increasingly valued by recruiters and employers who want to hire candidates that can evolve with them and transfer their skills between roles. In fact, 91% of talent professionals believe that soft skills are vital to the future of work. In times like we’re experiencing now, they’re proving imperative.

Take Faye Strugnell for example: a Case Manager and Investigator at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. In her spare time, she’s studying Curtin University’s Master of Health Industry Management through Open Universities Australia (OUA). And she’s not just doing it for the extra credentials…

“In the industries in which I’ve mostly worked (legal and health) there’s a different shift happening in that a lot of staff have sufficient tech skills due to growing up learning, playing and studying on computers — but some people don’t have the people skills — which is now more important than ever.”

Here are the top three human-centric skills your career will need during and after the pandemic:

1. Storytelling

‘Storytelling’ in the workforce refers to one’s ability to create communication that connects with people – moving them to feel emotions, and ultimately take the actions you want them to take. In the post COVID-19 workforce, the ability to do so – no matter your industry – is going to become more important than ever.

While digital communication technology such as chat bots are now in greater use than ever before – given that so many of us are now working, purchasing and learning from home – we still need humans to truly connect, persuade and influence.

Being able to use empathetic language and show your human side in the way you communicate is becoming increasingly valuable as organisations look to show that they’re the real deal.

This ability to understand and respond to each other’s needs and fears will be a real asset for businesses, so showcasing your ability to communicate with colleagues, customers or critics through story — whether written or verbal — is key.

2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence is your ability to notice your own emotions, and the emotions of others, using them to guide your thinking and behaviour. And it’s a skill that employees are after in a post-COVID world.

Accenture’s Randy Wandermacher once noted that employers in engineering are increasingly favouring graduates who don’t “reduce the world to ones and zeros. In the digital and robotics age we still require STEM graduates. But what we also want in graduates is curiosity, resilience, judgement and adaptivity.”

Given that so many have been through so much in the past few months, having the ability to read others’ emotions is worth its weight in gold – for managers, but staff at all levels.

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3. 21st Century Leadership

In recent months, we’ve seen how leaders have had to pivot their management skills online. This form of remote leadership is rapidly becoming the new norm, so learning how to guide your team from behind a screen will soon be vital (if it hasn’t already become so).

In addition to this, flat hierarchies – that is, organisations that see employees and leaders as equal in their ability to suggest and create change – are becoming increasingly important as the workplace shifts.

Modern leaders now need to be able to work alongside, not just above, their colleagues. It’s no longer about exercising control, but rather about giving control; creating an environment where diversity, inclusion, sustainability and collaboration are valued, and where workers feel like they’ve got space to grow and take risks.

Make ‘humanity’ a section on your CV

The technologies we have available to us these days are incredible — just imagine facing COVID-19 without smart phones and videoconferencing. But the ideas and progress we’ll need to get us through further periods of disruption will only come from human ingenuity. It’s our emotional integrity that will keep us employable. Our stories that will inform us. And compassionate leaders that will hold us together.

Has your job taught you empathy? Are you inherently creative? Write it down. Create a section on your CV that heroes these human-centric qualities. These are the skills that employers will be looking for in months to come.


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