By Diane Domeyer
Do you aspire to a leadership role? Start working on mastering these three soft skills to prepare yourself for the future workplace.
Are you anxious about how technology will impact your career in the future? We’ve all seen the news stories and reports on how advancements in technology, from automation to artificial intelligence to data analytics, are changing our world. If you’re seeing their effects in your job today, just think about the possible changes five or 10 years from now.
While it’s important to keep up with technical advancements to move your career forward, I’d argue that having well-developed soft skills is equally — or even more important — especially for women in business.
Robert Half recently conducted research on the impact disruptive technologies will have on the workforce for our report Jobs and AI Anxiety. More than half (51%) of managers see the introduction of new technologies in the workplace increasing the demand for soft skills.
As just one example, automation is removing routine tasks from our daily schedule, giving workers more time to be strategic, add value and take on leadership opportunities. Professionals will need excellent soft skills to excel in these areas.
However, I thought there was another really interesting finding from the research. Workers were asked if they feel AI and automation will impact their jobs; while 56% of women said no, only 38% of men said the same. This concerns me. The shift to the future workplace is already happening, whether people realize (or believe) it.
If you want to advance your career in the current and future business environment, you absolutely need to embrace these changes now, learn to work with new technologies, and most importantly, develop and showcase stellar soft skills.
Here are the three soft skills I feel women in business will need to master to prepare for the future workplace.
Knowing how to collaborate will be particularly important in the coming years, as technology is bridging the divide between many departments. Cross-functional teams are becoming the norm, like the growing partnerships between marketing and IT to tackle digital marketing projects.
And, more and more, teams are located in different offices. Remote technologies now allow companies to hire employees across cities, states and countries.
So, how can you develop your collaboration skills? Consider joining projects that require working with new coworkers or multiple departments. Pay attention to how other people and teams tackle a task, manage deadlines and report issues and progress. How can you adjust your work style or methods to better collaborate with others? Is there anything you can suggest to improve processes?
Being able to work effectively with diverse and remote groups can be challenging, but honing these skills is key.
2. Power of influence
We communicate every day, but when you understand how to inspire and encourage action from your colleagues, direct reports, business partners and customers through your exchanges with them, your leadership potential will grow immensely. Women especially need to develop this skill, as it can often be difficult for our voice to be heard.
If you’re not currently in a position of influence, it’s important to get comfortable expressing your opinion, listening to others and leading a group. I’d recommend talking to your manager about taking on projects with increased responsibilities, where you can provide more input and work with other team leaders.
You can also take training courses on developing an executive presence, which can help you improve your professional communication style, body language and more.
Empathy is crucial for leaders today. Organizations are strategically investing in the customer experience for all aspects of their business. Demonstrating empathy on initiatives surrounding customer focus can have strategic impact and significantly propel your career. But it’s important to also practice empathy towards those you work with.
Throughout the day, try to put yourself in other people’s shoes — whether that’s your customers, clients, business partners, colleagues or employees. When working with business partners in IT, legal or finance departments, what goals and processes do they have, and how do they differ from yours?
If you have direct reports, what do they want in their careers, and how can you enhance your organizational culture to improve their experience at the company?
Using empathy to understand others’ motivations and goals can help you form connections and handle possible conflicts effectively.
What else can women in business do to develop these soft skills and others? Here are some ideas:
- Stay abreast of industry changes. Read up on new advancements or practices within your profession, attend conferences and network with other professionals to remain current and competitive.
- Find a mentor. Having a mentor who helps guide you through career decisions can be a great asset. They can give you personalized advice on what soft skills to grow and how to do so. You can also gain helpful insights about your skills from being a mentor, too.
- Request 360 feedback. For your performance review, ask your manager to seek feedback on your soft skills from various colleagues, in addition to technical skills and project outcomes. This can help you understand your abilities and what you may need to improve.
- Seek training courses. Whether they’re offered inside or outside your company, taking a course is a great way to expand your skill set, as well as show leaders your dedication to professional development. You can find great online skills courses with sites like LinkedIn Learning.
- Volunteer for a “stretch” project. Raise your hand for a project that may be a little outside of your comfort zone or may require collaboration across diverse groups or different departments. The best way to develop newly learned soft skills is to put them into practice.
All industries are impacted by emerging technologies, and how you adapt to these changes today will impact the rest of your career. If you aspire to a leadership role, don’t wait until it’s too late to develop your soft skills. Stay current of new trends and continuously reassess and enhance your strengths, and you’ll find you have an edge in the future workplace.
Diane Domeyer is executive director of The Creative Group. When she’s not managing operations for TCG’s locations across North America, you can find her on a bike or spending time with her husband, five kids and grandchildren.
As a 25-year veteran in the staffing industry, Domeyer is a noted career and workplace expert. She has spoken at events such as Adobe MAX and HOW Design Live, and has been interviewed by publications such as Adweek, Business News Daily and Fast Company. Domeyer was named to Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2018 “Global Power 150 – Women In Staffing” list and was awarded “Forever Influential” status on the San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” list.