Soft Skills Are Irreplaceable

While many laborers today worry that the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) may take their jobs away, humans still possess something that computers can’t replicate: soft skills. A 2017 joint study from Boston College, Harvard, and the University of Michigan suggested that soft skills training in areas like problem solving and communication increases productivity and retention by 12 percent, with a 250 percent ROI.

LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report concluded that among the trends transforming today’s workplace, 91 percent of survey respondents agree that soft skills are very important to the future of recruiting and HR. In addition, 80 percent believe soft skills are increasingly important to company success.

The research clearly shows that there’s no replacement for soft skills, but employers continually struggle to measure and recruit for them. While hard skills are important, employers increasingly find that what they really need are employees who are adept at teamwork, loyalty, precise communication, and, especially, leadership.

Furthermore, soft skills are evergreen. The report points out, “A particular programming language may go out of fashion, but creativity, adaptability, and collaboration skills will always be valuable. Many companies still struggle to accurately assess soft skills, despite their growing value. If companies want a hiring strategy for the future, they need to change how they identify and hire for soft skills.”

Rising Importance

A 2017 Forbes piece cited Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report in which executives regarded soft skills as important for fostering employee retention, improving leadership, and building a meaningful culture. In fact, 92 percent of Deloitte’s respondents rated soft skills as a critical priority.

Where New Grads Fall Short

A 2106 PayScale survey of more than 64,000 managers revealed that 60 percent believe new graduates lack vital critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Other areas where soft skills fall short include:

• Attention to detail
• Communication skills
• Lack of leadership qualities
• Interpersonal and teamwork skills

Given their relative lack of experience, recent college graduates can’t be expected to leap immediately into proficiency in these areas. But veterans can.

Cue the Veteran Experience

No single group shines brighter in the soft skills category than military veterans. Just a few traits veterans bring to the civilian workplace include these attributes, noted in Syracuse University’s IVMF study, “The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran”:

  • Veterans are familiar with diverse work settings.
  • The military experience is replete with making fast, tough choices in the face of uncertainty – especially in combat environments.
  • Veterans’ resiliency allows them to adapt in the face of adversity, overcome hardships, and excel, even in harsh environments.
  • As team builders, veterans excel at organizing, defining goals and team roles, as well as plans of action in order to accomplish any task or mission.
  • Many veterans have gained cross-cultural experiences from working with groups internationally and have a higher level of cultural sensitivity.
  • Veterans commit to their organization and bring loyalty to their civilian jobs, which can lead to lower attrition rates and contribute to higher work quality.
  • Veterans are great at transferring their skills to new tasks. They’ve been trained to plan for contingencies, different environments, and new scenarios.

As the labor market remains tight, employers must branch out and examine candidates who may not possess every hard skill needed for a role, but who have the ability via soft skills to quickly learn what they need to know on-the-job and make a positive impact in the organization at large.


by: Katie Becker



LinkedIn Business Solutions



University of Michigan