Being comfortable with the demands of a digital environment and an ability to write code at lightning speed may not be enough for the next generation of information technology professionals, as employers are increasingly aware that soft skills are an essential part of a harmonious and efficient workplace.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a recent study found that 60 percent of hiring managers considered a positive mental attitude and an ability to communicate with others far more important in employee performance evaluations than traditional hard skills associated with the position itself. Soft skills have often been deemed as superfluous to the IT profession, especially as it requires less personal interaction than in other more people-friendly jobs, but, as advances in technology put IT at the forefront of business strategies, this is no longer the case.
One concern is that soft skills for IT professionals have, in many cases, been put on the back burner in a workplace environment. Being technically proficient has been seen to be more important than an ability to communicate ideas or concepts in a language that non-IT workers or managers can understand or appreciate.
In many ways, this perceived lack of soft skills for IT workers has been highlighted by an increased use of technology within the workplace environment itself, with employees encouraged to interact through emails and instant messaging as opposed to personal contact. Granted, it can sometimes be more efficient to liaise or interface through an internal computer network, but it does drastically reduce the chances of all staff members, not just IT professionals, having a communicative relationship where ideas can be shared and issues can be addressed efficiently.
“Today, an increasing number of employers are looking for ways to ensure their IT departments’ strategies and processes are well in line with their organizations’ business goals and needs,” explains Michael Manganelli, Senior Technical Recruiter at ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “Employers have realized that if they want their IT teams to deliver impactful solutions that drive their businesses forward, they need to hire IT professionals with strong communications skills to ensure the lines of communication between the IT department and the rest of the business remain open and clear. As a result, candidates who can make their communication skills known when applying to jobs and interviewing, will find themselves at a competitive advantage.”
The bigger picture
Another recent survey of 500 executives noted that recent graduates – in all industry sectors – are entering the workforce with little – or in many cases, no – soft skills. According to NBC News, 92 percent of respondents identified this as a job skills gap, with 44 percent of those surveyed specifically highlighting a lack of critical thinking, creativity and communication – all of which are essential in IT.
Technology in the workplace has been a tremendous advantage to business strategies across the country, but it will always need a personal touch. Soft skills may not be at the top of the agenda for an efficient IT professional, but learning to communicate efficiently could do wonders for their career.