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Why Soft Skills Are Key to Maximizing Workforce Productivity

CoAdvantage- The pandemic has proven one thing for HR recruiters: soft skills are indispensable.

A survey from last July found that nearly two-thirds (60%) of respondents believe they now need to hire workers with skills that were not necessary before the pandemic. Soft skills topping the list include adaptability (68%), communication (60%), and technology proficiency (58%). And their importance is likely to continue increasing: an HR Dive study found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of survey respondents agreed that a focus on soft skills would continue to become more important over time.

To be clear, soft skills are distinct from role-specific skills. They offer universal value in all employee functions. In other words, organizations rely on all employees, regardless of position or function, to be flexible, adaptable, and capable of communicating skillfully. These kinds of skills are critical to maximizing productivity and resiliency.

Of course, soft skills were important even before the pandemic and often returned outsized ROI. One study from Harvard University, Boston University, and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business looked at the business impact of soft skills development. They found that workers trained in soft skills were 12% more productive than those who weren’t. That increased productivity then aggregated to produce an astounding 256% total ROI.

Employers have two basic options for ensuring that their workforce possesses these critical skills.


First, keep soft skills in mind throughout the recruitment process, so that new hires enter the workforce already equipped with these skillsets.

It’s important to understand this goes beyond simply avoiding bad hires; recruiting for soft skills is about making hires that are geared specifically toward these skills. Innovations in interviewing have proliferated in recent years. For example, some employers now use “job auditions” that assign candidates a work sample test. Google recruiters have found that this work test is often the best predictor of future performance. In addition, recruiters can apply new automation and machine learning technologies that can help hiring managers to navigate the interviewing process and more successfully determine if a candidate possesses the right soft skills.


Second, provide training that can help workers to develop these skills once they are hired. As mentioned above, soft skills training can return dividends.

This training might be part of the onboarding process and/or part of ongoing, recurring training. As with interviewing, training options have seen new innovations emerge over the past few years that give employers more flexibility in how they develop these skills. Notably, this is important for leadership development as well. If employees can’t be successful in the roles that they inhabit currently because they don’t possess adequate skills in resiliency, professionalism, communication, flexibility, and so on, then they are not going to be good candidates for promotion and future leadership.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.