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Professional
soft skills for a
digital workplace
in 2022

Author: Gary Hilson

Professional soft skills have always been valuable, but the shift to a hybrid office highlights the importance of these skills. Teamwork, communication, flexibility, and a strong work ethic are just as important as the technology solutions that enable remote work. If leaders want to improve the employee experience, they need to polish their own professional soft skills and help employees hone theirs.

With the increase of hybrid and remote jobs, having the right soft job skills is highly valued by potential employers and gives job seekers a competitive edge. Some professional soft skills might have already been learned before the shift to remote work, while other skills may have been less valued in an office setting. In some cases, robust technology is required for employees to be able to fully demonstrate their soft skills so that the entire organization benefits.

Leadership skills for the future workplace

Keeping distributed teams connected and engaged is one of the top professional soft skills that anyone in a leadership position must cultivate. Research conducted in early 2021 by Gartner® found that "current virtualized work design models are damaging employees' well-being and productivity and that to succeed in a hybrid future, organizations must stop duplicating office-centric practices and shift to a human-centric model."1 Leaders should adopt an empathy-based approach, shifting from evaluating performance by inputs to evaluating performance by outcomes.

Leaders should also cultivate a tolerance for increased flexibility by giving remote employees greater control over deciding how, when and where they work. They should also enable "intentional" collaboration via asynchronous work rather than relying on an office-centric design that requires serendipitous in-person encounters for innovation to happen. Leaders need to resist the urge to book more meetings to bring employees together and understand how they can manage and communicate with teams with the understanding that everyone works differently when remote.

The requirement for increased flexibility also applies to employees. For everyone to maximize the benefit of more flexible working arrangements, employees need to be respectful of the preferences of their colleagues when it comes to workload distribution, vacation planning and other elements requiring teamwork.

Communication and presentation soft job skills

Many soft job skills still involve how well you work with others, even if you're not seeing colleagues in person. Professional soft skills, such as being able to navigate and manage relationships, are especially important if you're managing projects and people remotely. You must also be able to connect and engage with colleagues across departments if you are to successfully advance any deliverable, whether it's a large project that's strategic to the future of the business or ensuring that employees and suppliers are paid on time.

While effective leaders will seek to minimize unnecessary meetings, there will be occasions when meetings are necessary. One of the most important soft job skills is presenting to a group, which now, in the new remote hybrid work environment, means mastering delivery via videoconferencing. Effectively presenting and participating in a meeting remotely requires its own set of soft skills. Regardless of your role with the organization, always keep the audience in mind. Since videoconferencing is a visual medium, leverage available technology to tell a story and encourage interactivity to keep attendees engaged.

Ensuring you are appropriately prepared for a meeting is crucial to success. This means making sure you are briefed on the necessary materials and you share any important information with decision makers ahead of time to allow for decisions to be made in a timely manner. Setting—and keeping—reasonable time limits for both individual agenda items and entire meetings is also an important skill to hone.

Technology enables professional soft skills

Presenting via videoconferencing is just one of many professional soft skills that intertwine with technology. The best solutions enable you to select the right platform and the appropriate channels to communicate with employees and support innovation through collaboration. However, professional soft skills such as being adaptable, flexible, and leading with empathy are just as critical as the technology deployed to support remote work and the hybrid office.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.

Gartner, Gartner HR Research Shows Organizations Are Eroding Employee Performance and Well-Being with Virtualized Office-Centric Design, Mary Baker and Teresa Zuech, May, 2021.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.