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Essential Soft Skills for Business Leaders

The economy is experiencing a phenomenon known as the “Great Resignation.” TIME Magazine reported in October 2021 that 4.2 million workers gave their two weeks’ notice in August 2021 alone, and the resignation rate for the 2021 year is running up to 15% higher than the record set in 2019.

Across all industries, employees feel disengaged from their jobs — they are disinterested in the work or feel devalued by managers — which is driving the exodus, according to Gallup, noting that productivity lost to employees’ lack of involvement amounts to 18% of worker’s salary.

Gallup recommends a radical way to slow down the loss of employees and improve the digital work experience: a culture shift in how front-line managers supervise their direct reports.

“Employee retention strategies demand people management skills,” the global analytics and advisory firm noted. Employee dissatisfaction and attrition “can be interrupted — and the most effective interrupter is the local manager,” the global analytics and advisory firm said.

Business success and employee retention now require managers to supplement their subject-matter expertise with “soft skills,” also known as people skills. Traditional supervisory styles contribute to the Great Resignation. Leaders with soft skills foster the positive professional relationships and values that are crucial to restoring engagement and keeping employees with a company.

What Are Soft Skills in the Workplace?

Demonstrating technical proficiency is critical in hiring and promoting front-line managers, but success now depends on leadership that factors the human element into the supervisory equation.

The Balance Careers, an online archive of strategies and advice for job search and advancement, lists time management, goal setting and communication among essential soft skills. Others include:

  • Candor: Employees can tell when their managers are soft-shaping things, which results in loss of trust and dissatisfaction. “Telling it like it is” tactfully and diplomatically engenders respect up and down the organization chart.
  • Flexibility: Anticipating regulatory changes and strategic adjustments to meet marketplace competition enables managers to prepare employees for disruptions, listen to and respect their concerns and coach them on how to meet the new challenges.
  • Community Building: In a cross-team environment, managers must still lead their teams, but that is not all. Now managers must understand and communicate to their teams how they fit into the organization’s overall strategies, ask for and use team members’ inputs and ideas on strengthening relationships and supporting the goals of allied teams.

Managers with demonstrated soft-skill mastery are in high demand because they yield at least two significant benefits to the organization. First, managers with those skills show their employees are valued, making them more likely to remain engaged and productive. Second, managers with soft skills can attract top performers — and there are many in the job market now — who left their previous employers because their managers lacked them.

How Can You Learn Soft Skills for Workplace Management?

According to MIT Management Executive Education, human resources professionals and hiring managers say they have difficulty finding management candidates who bring soft skills such as adaptability, relationship building and persuasion to the workplace.

A general Master of Business Administration, such as that offered by La Salle University, provides the flexibility in course selection to develop and strengthen leadership skills for positions across the business spectrum. Its leadership development curriculum delves into essential soft-skill topics such as time and stress management, individual and group problem solving, communication, power and influence, motivation, conflict management, empowerment and team leadership.

Internationally recognized through its accreditation by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the online program is identical to La Salle’s on-campus program.

Business professionals who want to thrive in the modern environment of remote work must have strong soft skills and effective management strategies. An advanced business degree can be the first step to developing these aptitudes.

Learn more about La Salle University’s online general Master of Business Administration program.

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