Walking into any job interview knowing the ins and outs of in-demand software will lend a lot to landing the position. However, employers aren’t just looking for worker drones–they hire people for their in-demand soft skills. They look for employees who will be responsible, easy to work with, and highly trainable. They are looking for people to help the company culture grow. And, they want employees who they think have the drive and resilience to stay at the company.
According to Business News Daily, “Your personality is just as important as your technical prowess at work.” They emphasize that because tech is becoming more collaborative and customer-focused, employers need people with the right personalities.
Dr. Jeanette K. Winters, recently led a Fireside Chat for WOZ U and ENTITY Academy. In this chat, she explained employing people with highly-developed soft skills is a “business imperative” for corporations. With the rate of change in automation, data analytics, and digital commerce, the appetites of customers are changing. They expect a higher quality of service than ever before as brands spread worldwide. This means soft skills help in the day-to-day productivity of the organization and the company culture, as well as helping increase profits.
Who is Jeanette Winters?
Dr. Jeanette K. Winters is a Fortune 100 Talent Management Executive. She is currently a managing partner at Parrish Partners, a leadership and management consulting company. Her past roles include Director of Knowledge and Learning at Intel, Vice President of the Learning Network at American Express, and Vice President of Enterprise Learning and Development at Pitney Bowes.
She is also part of ENTITY Academy’s Mentor Network. ENTITY Academy is an EdTech company that seeks to close the gender pay gap by training women for 21st-century jobs. Last year, WOZ U forged a collaboration with ENTITY to help further their goal of getting more women into male-dominated tech fields such as data science.
In-Demand Soft Skills, Or Service Skills
Dr. Winters doesn’t actually like the term “soft skills.” The reason for this is because she believes there is “nothing soft” about them. To her, “soft” gives the impression of being, “easily molded” and therefore influenced. It doesn’t give the connotation that this is a person who is strong and confident – which are some of the traits companies are looking for.
She instead likes to call them, “service skills,” in other words, “The skills required to serve others while accomplishing your own activities.” She explains that of these “service skills” there are three above all others that large companies are looking for: collaboration, communication, and discernment.
Gone are the days of sitting alone in a cubicle for eight hours, with eyes glued to your own screen. More and more tech companies have recently adopted floor plans for their offices to be more open.
In a recent article from Fast Company, they emphasized the importance of returning to a collaborative office space post-pandemic. They cited a BGC study that reported, “Employees satisfied with social connectivity are more likely to maintain or improve productivity on collaborative tasks.”
The Fast Company article elaborates on this even further by saying that after a year of being remote and disconnected, companies will need to, “Pause to appreciate one another, to show gratitude, to recognize moments that people were creative, adaptable, resilient, and selfless.”
This is why hiring managers will be looking for employees who are strong at what Dr. Winters calls, “Colossal Collaboration.” What makes her definition stand out is that the emphasis is not on, just being a part of a team or just getting your job done – it is about, “Getting the entire job done well.”
Colossal Collaboration also involves being able to navigate your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses and considers them when tackling projects. It is about open feedback and, as we will see, communication.
In tech, there may be times when you have to explain your findings to people who are not tech-savvy themselves. Let’s say you have built a data set, cleaned it, and noticed some patterns. Whether it is a customer, the marketing lead, or even the CEO of the company, you need to be able to succinctly explain the patterns you found without overwhelming them with technical jargon.
Dr. Winters brings up the “Journalist Creed of Action” which is to always ask, “Who? What? Where? Why? How?” Whenever you work on a team on a project, or even on your own projects, it is important that you answer these questions whenever you present findings or results. This way, whoever you are reporting to gets a clearer understanding of the scope of the project, without having to ask too many follow-up questions.
Dr. Winters also mentions the importance of learning the communication styles of your colleagues when you start at a new job. She shares an example of how at Intel, where she worked for ten years, “Emails were predicated on the basis of, ‘SAR’ – Situation, Analysis, Recommendation. They were never more than three-quarters of a page and that is how you communicated.”
When she transitioned to work at American Express, the then-president told her she was getting a “definite reputation” for her emails. He explained that American Express’s company culture was a little more social, and her emails that were based around “SAR” were being viewed as “formal.”
It is important to be able to adapt your communication style to that of the company, in order to effectively integrate yourself into the workplace.
Dr. Winters acknowledged that this last service skill is a little hard to define, but what it really translates to is having a good sense of judgment.
“When we talk about discernment, you’re looking at the situation and digging deeply. You’re not just saying, ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or, ‘maybe.’ You are trying to turn the kaleidoscope and see different pictures and look at the situation through different lenses. That makes you far more valuable than your colleagues that don’t do that,” Winters said.
Winters explained that discernment is about being able to, “connect the dots.” When given a problem or situation, you need to be able to leverage the talent and skills of those around you to solve it. Plus, you need to be able to embrace personal accountability for your role in a project or situation.
All three of these in-demand soft skills–colossal collaboration, communication, and discernment–are skills to practice daily. If you’re actively trying to better yourself by working on these “service skills” you will go farther at any company in the tech space.
Maria Rotelli is the Editorial and Content lead at ENTITY Academy, an EdTech company that is on a mission to close the gender pay gap by providing women with in-demand hard skills, soft skills, and leadership training, as well as mentorship.
Maria holds a B.A. in Psychology from Clark University and an M.A. in Journalism from Emerson College. She is based out of Los Angeles, California.