Building Soft Skills in IT Teams

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Most enterprises invest heavily in technology. They purchase the best technologies, hire the most talented IT staff, and provide extensive professional development opportunities. However, when it comes to soft skills, organizations often overlook them.

Soft skills are more difficult to quantify than technical skills. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends survey, although 92% of talent professionals say that soft skills are more important than hard skills, only 42% of them have a formal process in place to measure them.

They are difficult to measure, develop, and quantify, so companies often resort to vague descriptions such as “good communication skills” or “able to work in a team”.

But soft skills could also be defined clearly. When an organization is clear about the skills it needs from its employees, it can implement effective soft skills training, which is vital to the success of the organization.

Important soft skills IT teams need

Soft skills can differentiate IT professionals from their peers, particularly in a highly competitive environment.

Soft skills are personal characteristics, qualities, and abilities that impact the quality of your relationships with others. They assist you in developing connections, developing trust and reliability, and leading groups of people.

Here are some of the essential soft skills members of IT teams should have:

  • Teamwork and collaboration — the ability to work collaboratively with others to achieve a shared goal. It requires a strong sense of responsibility towards others, the ability to listen, and the ability to communicate clearly with others. 
  • Relationship building and communication — the ability to interact with others and establish connections. It involves interacting with others in a way that establishes trust, respect, and rapport. 
  • Flexibility and adaptability — the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace new opportunities. It involves being open to new ideas and perspectives and being comfortable with a changing environment.
  • Self-motivation and discipline —  the ability to motivate yourself to work towards your goals, even when no one else is forcing you to do so. It involves the ability to set your own goals, manage your own time, and work productively. 
  • Creative thinking  — the ability to solve challenging problems with new ideas. It involves the ability to look at problems and situations from a new perspective. 
  • Problem-solving — the ability to develop solutions and apply them when appropriate. It involves the ability to assess problems and then develop solutions, often in stressful situations.

There are many more useful soft skills but these are some of the most important ones for IT teams as they can help overcome specific challenges the industry faces.

Women talking with her colleagues

How to improve soft skills in your IT team

Make soft skills an integral component of the team's values and culture

Soft skills must be an integral part of the team’s culture and values. When team members see the organization’s commitment to these skills, they are more likely to adopt them.

The team should develop clear guidelines about soft skills and regularly review them. This will ensure they evolve with the changing needs of the industry and the organization.

Identify and prioritize soft skills 

IT teams must identify which soft skills they need to develop. These skills could be technical, such as the ability to interpret data or manage projects, or non-technical, such as the ability to communicate clearly or collaborate with others.

IT teams must then prioritize these skills, based on the team’s goals, the working environment, and the challenges facing the organization.

Take soft skills into account when hiring

Hiring managers must focus on finding candidates with the right soft skills. Soft skills are often just as important as hard skills, especially for senior team members, given the need for team leadership.

Hiring managers should not overlook soft skills during the hiring process. They should consider how well candidates can communicate, collaborate, and lead during the interview process.

Foster a workplace culture that values mental health

Soft skills can be difficult to develop. Particularly in a high-pressure environment, team members can face significant challenges and stress. This can lead to mental health issues such as burnout, anxiety, and depression, which can result in reduced productivity, absenteeism, and high turnover.

Companies should provide mental health awareness training, promote a workplace culture that values mental health, and provide appropriate support.

You can even consider hiring an inhouse therapist and offering regular psychotherapy sessions as a part of the employee benefit package to help your team members improve their mental wellbeing and lay a solid foundation for building strong interpersonal skills.

Create possibilities for soft skills development

Professional development possibilities at your company are most likely centered on specialized certificates or software training.

However, organizations should also develop soft skills training modules tailored to their requirements. Soft skills development is an ongoing process. IT professionals should be regularly assessed on soft skills and given appropriate training and feedback. 

These soft skills will help team members develop and maintain productive relationships with colleagues and clients, which is essential to the success of an organization. 

Over to you

The importance of soft skills in IT cannot be underestimated. They can enable IT teams to overcome specific challenges and support their technical competencies. 

When soft skills are incorporated into the organization’s values, hiring processes, and culture, they can help the team achieve its goals.  

Are there any soft skills that your team struggles to develop?