Soft skills can reshape your business

During the spring and summer of 2020 many things have changed even here in our peaceful corner of the world. Home offices have become the new normal (for those of us who can do our work from home), ban on gatherings, travel restrictions and a great uncertainty in predicting the future.

I am sure that this has taught all of us a lot about adaptation to a new normal without the handshake, the pinching and the social distancing.

Being the lecturer and business developer I like to share some observations and comment on the key factors that enables change in difficult times. Since I am also a board member and a mentor for the employees at Oslo Business Forum I am far from a neutral observer – I want them to succeed in their aspiration on building leaders who can change the world!

One year ago OECD published its Skills Outlook 2019 “Thriving in a Digital World”. In this report soft skills are highlighted as essential for succeeding with the digital transformation. In light of the pandemic this report is even more interesting.

Firstly, many industries have made a leap from analog to digital through home offices and cloud based software solutions. The adoption of these digital tools has been remarkable.

Secondly, the relationship at the workplace has changed. Colleagues with skills on how to use different tools teach others and in addition have increased their value in the organization.

Thirdly, the agreement that ok is good enough, that goes for everything that works, and solves problems (and does not endanger the business or reputation) has led to a series of new solutions, both digital and analog.

In search for an explanation to what goes on and who drives these changes I have thought a lot on soft skills.

Soft skills are a mix of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence. In the English Dictionary soft skills are defined as: “the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude”.

Soft Skills were first described by the US Military in the 1970s and have been discussed and criticized for being vague and never fully mastered – unlike hard skills. What if these skills are the ones that are needed to move things forward in times of crisis?

Organizations, small or larger ones, with too much focus on “get the job done” will run into trouble without people able to gather information, filter it, maneuver, nudge and provide change.

Agile management is now the new normal

The ability to tackle the changes brought on us by the pandemic requires hard skills such medicine, strategy, economics, law, technology and science. Leaders need to take decisions based more on assumptions and less on data than before. The timeframe has been limited because every day brings new information on the pandemic in our integrated global economy.

Agile management is now the new normal. A concept that has been predicted for a long time. So why are soft skills something worth paying attention to? For me as a educational leader in All In it is obvious that these skills can be trained and this is mandatory for our coaches and in our leadership training, but we see that they often come in second place for the more countable hard skills.

Since January 2020, I have been on sabbatical from my former employer The Norwegian Business School BI. I have worked with and observed a couple of small companies, one being Oslo Business Forum. To sum up some of my observations:

  • The company consist of only young people (no one over 30)
  • It is led by young professionals with no former management experience
  • After the ban on big gatherings by the Norwegian Government, they had to re-think how to create value for their customers

So what has Oslo Business Forum done?

Firstly, they have trusted their sources of information by reaching out to all stakeholders.

Secondly, they have pivoted and produced digital content and conferences with and for partners, gaining experience and learnt by doing. The ability to test, adjust and execute has been impressive.

Thirdly, they have discussed and been transparent with all their employees to an extent that impresses me. The organization is now changed. Alignments on what to do, how and when with focus on the upcoming digital conference are in place.

The team of young professionals at Oslo Business Forum has demonstrated what soft skills are; positive thinking, honesty and curiosity combined with humor and determination.

I have learnt by observing that it is essential to train the ability to deal with people, all stakeholders; employees, partners, customers, media, authorities, but also friends and family. To show that you care not only for you own gain or benefit – but trying to share insight and aspirations and move forward.

The next chapter of the Oslo Business Forum story is the online event taking place on September 24 th . With the lecturer present. Ready to learn some more insight from his former students.