Top Soft Skills for 2021

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on February 3, 2021

Just because a skill is considered “hard” doesn’t mean that it’s hard to learn. Also, just because a skill is considered “soft” doesn’t mean it’s not critical.

Hard skills can be taught; but soft skills are often learned through life experiences or even just embedded into the very character of a person. So what are the best employee soft skills for 2021?

Here’s a look at why soft skills matter to your business and why you should look for these traits in your new hires.

Woman giving presentation to tablet on a tripod.

What are soft skills?

The big difference between hard skills that require specialized and technical knowledge of your trade versus soft skills which include cognitive ability, workplace behaviors, and emotional intelligence, is that one can be taught and the other is earned. We rarely see people fail in job due to their lack of technical competence. If the employee is a good one, employers are usually more than willing to teach hard skills.

Hard skills are typically very specific to the role. They are the technical skills such as experience with a software program, driving a forklift, or the ability to close a deal. Soft skills are sometimes instinctive and rooted in a person’s personality, such as patience or perseverance. They also can be part of the human experience itself, as people develop their personalities to encompass listening over speaking or staying positive despite adversity. Hard skills are more related to job experience and expertise, degrees, and certifications.

Indeed says, “hard skills show off your experience and understanding of a particular, measurable ability; soft skills often indicate your ability to work with others and grow within a company.” Since so many job tasks are team-oriented these days, having the strong soft skills necessary to work within a collaborative environment is crucial.

As you might imagine, there’s a lot of emphasis this year on soft skills for candidate hiring. But why are soft skills so important to companies? How can these candidate skills improve your business bottom line?

Illustration of people working.

Why soft skills matter to your business

Soft skills facilitate collaboration in the workplace. Employees with certain types of soft skills are more productive, use their initiative more frequently, and handle frustration well. There is scientific research that shows companies that focus their hiring criteria on soft skills will end up with higher levels of production over those that emphasize only hard skills in their hiring practices:

According to Oxbridge Academy, soft skills are more important than ever for five key reasons:

  1. Hard skills are useless without soft skills to back up their task-related knowledge.
  2. Soft skills are more difficult to learn and therefore more valuable.
  3. Today’s workplaces are collaborative, relying heavily on soft skills to get things done.
  4. Soft skills such as empathy and a sense of humor improve the customer experience.
  5. The future of work lies in soft skills; these human characteristics can’t be replicated or replaced by automation or artificial intelligence (AI).

Social and emotional skills are becoming more important “as intelligent machines take over more physical, repetitive, and basic cognitive tasks.” Work is changing; but in a hard world, it’s our human soft skills that will matter the most.

Person using computer graphic

What are the top soft skills for 2021?

The top three areas of missing soft skills for candidates today include:

  1. Problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity.
  2. Ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity.
  3. Communication

These skills seem to crop up repeatedly in annual lists of skills most desired by hiring teams.

For example, LinkedIn’s annual release of the Global Talent Trend report puts some of these soft skills at the top of the list for desirable employee traits.

LinkedIn says some of the more in-demand soft skills this year include:

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Persuasion

The Ladders says the soft skills you need for 2021 include:

  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Work ethic

Interestingly, both sources name adaptability as a key soft skill; with a pandemic still raging, it’s easy to see why that made the list.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) also is a key soft skill for 2021, encompassing such characteristics as empathy, motivation, self-awareness, self-management, and social skills.

Team Up with TERRA

Securing the right talent for your business is essential for success. And, in finding the right talent, it’s important to look not only at the hard skills desired for the position, but the soft skills that will ultimately impact your entire business environment. At TERRA Staffing, we understand the complexities and challenges surrounding the hiring process. If you’re ready to find the right talent for your open positions in 2021 that meet the hard and soft skills desired by your company, our team at TERRA Staffing can help. To get a conversation started, visit us at

Categories: Staffing Tips & Recruiting Trends

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