• Soft Skills

    By Lynne Williams
    Full-Time Faculty, School of Business and Information Technology

    As IT projects increasingly rely on virtual teams for a variety of initiatives, the importance of soft skills to facilitate effective teamwork is growing. "Soft skills" refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes, and social graces that make someone compatible to work with. Such skills include adaptability, problem solving, conflict resolution, and critical observation.

    Soft skills can be acquired and honed by both genders but have traditionally been looked upon as "feminine skills," because Western society in particular encourages women to develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and empathy than men. "Hard" IT prowess continues to be an imperative proficiency in IT employees. But the flattening of antiquated organizational structures and the globalization of both business objectives and workforce is shifting the dynamics to "get things done" in the ability to collaborate than it does on the organizational role one occupies. Why is that?

    • The trend toward stripping away the old-fashioned layers of management that once supported vertical organizational hierarchies changes the accountability model. In the traditional structure, one is responsible to a supervisor who has direct oversight. In the modern setting, one is responsible to the team, with oversight coming from colleagues.
    • Flatter structures and fuzzier delineation of managerial roles also affects where power resides. Dictating orders and expecting to be obeyed puts the power with the role/position. In the modern teamwork model, the power resides in successful outcomes, meaning that a "command and control" approach is considerably less effective than generating ideas and promoting negotiation to develop solutions.
    • A global workforce also factors into the rise for soft skills management. When team members are scattered across the planet, abilities such as inspiring a strong sense of commitment, building trust, and fostering true collaboration are crucial.

    IT professionals are naturally reliant on their "hard skills know-how" because they work in a highly technical field. As a result, team members with good soft skills may find themselves being ignored or patronized by "old school" colleagues. But that attitude is changing quickly and widely.

    To maintain profitability, contemporary businesses have to be adaptable, maintain an IT infrastructure that gives the organization agility, and be capable of leveraging social media for their online presence. Hard skills support the hardware that makes this all possible, but soft skills are what support the team work that manage infrastructure and projects-which means women are already one step ahead.

    Interested in this career? Check out Kaplan University's IT resources here.

    Lynne Williams is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.


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