We all know that technology has changed the way we work. With all of the talk of STEM jobs, telecommuting, and social networking, it can seem as though perhaps the skills that mattered most years ago have fallen out of fashion. As long as you can saddle up to new technology and navigate the internets effectively, you should be all set, right? Wrong. It turns out people skills are even more important than ever. Here are a few reasons why.
1. People skills give us an edge over the robots.
David J. Deming of Harvard University recently published a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research in which he examined the growing importance of social skills in the labor market. One of his arguments was that people skills are one of the main advantages humans have over machines. In order to retain our jobs in a society that is all too eager to automate as much as possible, holding onto our communication skills is critical.
“Human interaction in the workplace involves team production, with workers playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting flexibly to changing circumstances,” Deming wrote. “Such nonroutine interaction is at the heart of the human advantage over machines.”
2. Social skills could help close the gender wage gap.
Gillian White of The Atlantic wrote a piece last summer about what it takes to get ahead in today’s job market. Not surprisingly, social skills topped the list. One of her arguments for nurturing and intentionally developing our people skills is that they could help to close the gender wage gap. Her ideas came, in part, from the paper published by Deming, which noted that social skills may be partially responsible for the progress that has already been made toward bridging the gap, since women test higher in emotional intelligence than men. However, others argue than women simply exhibit social and emotional skills differently than men, and one way isn’t better than the other.
3. They could help you earn more money.
It’s widely accepted that STEM jobs are good jobs, now and in the future. But, will they always pay well? Deming noted that jobs that require the application of social skills have demonstrated more significant wage growth in recent decades than others. The data have shown this to be somewhat true, although the future of the tech industry, and other industries as well, remains to be seen. Still, whether your industry is communications driven or not, people skills will certainly help you get ahead and could even lead to a promotion.
4. Because good social skills help you stand out.
In the past, being good with people was commonly understood to be an important aspect of leadership. Social skills are still thought of as important, but with all the emphasis on other knowledge, STEM for example, people skills could help distinguish you from the pack. These days, being able to connect well with others face-to-face (rather than on the phone or via social media), tell a good story, negotiate like a champ, and listen well are traits employers value. Sharpening your people skills might help you stand out more than ever before as so many others start to direct their focus toward another direction.
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