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Soft Skills In The Workplace: What Are They & How To Develop Them

Our speakers on 8 of the most important soft skills for 2023

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Asked about the future of work earlier this year, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella was adamant.

“We all have to….be much more deliberate [and] learn a lot of soft skills so that people-to-people connections are forming.” – Satya Nadella (1).

In other words, people connections will be important, and we need soft skills to make those connections.

Modern leaders make a big deal about soft skills.

Free Download: 10 Leadership Qualities That Will Help Solve Challenges in 2023

Yet Deloitte says data from LinkedIn profiles shows fewer than 1% of Australians report having any soft skills on their profiles.

So, what are the soft skills needed for 2023 and beyond? What are their benefits? And how do you develop soft skills in the workplace? Let’s take a look.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the human skills that ensure a healthy workplace.

They’re skills like creative thinking, listening, teamwork, empathy, and flexibility.

European Scientist says the term “soft skills” is equivalent to related terms such as “life skills,” “talents,” “personal skills,” or “generic skills.” (2)

They seem obvious, but without soft skills in the workplace you end up with a toxic workplace.

7 examples of soft skills

Given soft skills are human skills, most of the appealing human traits and characteristics could be seen as examples of soft skills.

When recruiting, onboarding, engaging, retaining, and growing team members, these are the people skills to help you gain trust, loyalty, and respect. 

In a moment I'll list out 8 of the most important soft skills for 2023, and how to develop them. First, here's a brief list of some common examples of soft skills:






Problem solving



Critical thinking

Emotional intelligence


Work ethic

Hard skills vs soft skills

Put simply, hard skills are the learned, technical skills needed to perform in a role. They include such things as computer (ICT) literacy, financial management, reading and writing, or other skills particular to the job at hand.

Soft skills can be learned, but are often intrinsic in a person. If hiring for good soft skills is prioritised, it’s more likely your organisation will have a successful workplace culture. 

For example, a CEO who is expert at e-commerce (hard skillset) and a great listener and communicator (soft skillset) will do more for team culture than a bombastic technical expert.

Recruiters are aparently looking closer at a mix of hard and soft skills in new hires; those who can do the job but also get on with the team and contribute to the culture. 

8 of the most important soft skills (and how to develop them)

While artificial intelligence is becoming more human-like, there’s evidence technology is increasing (not decreasing) the need for human skills in the workplace.

The World Economic Forum said crucial proficiencies in the 21st Century would include soft skills like collaboration, communication, persistence/grit, initiative, and social and cultural awareness. (3)

Let’s look at the most important soft skills for 2023.


86% of surveyed employees blame company failures on poor communication. (4)

Refusing to have difficult conversations, jumping to give advice, avoiding feedback, being vague (“sloppy requests” – as one leadership coach calls them), and struggling to build a trusting culture might be examples of poor communication.

Let’s face it, communication skills are required every day to deal with a range of leader challenges. A team member who struggles to communicate effectively is behind from the beginning.

How Do You Develop Communication Skills?

Many of Growth Faculty’s speakers teach communication skills.

·       Accountability expert Mark Green says to be transparent in your communications, instead of playing your cards close to your chest.

·       Mark is also a fan of frequency. He says that until your team literally rolls their eyes and finishes your sentences for you, you’re not repeating yourself enough.

·       Coaching expert Michael Bungay Stanier believes in active listening and staying curious for longer in conversations.

·       Radical Candor coach Amy Sandler says to care personally while you challenge directly.

·       Storytelling expert Yamini Naidu says telling a story makes a message memorable.

Collaboration and Teamwork

These soft skills are largely about trust.

Pat Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and upcoming Global Headline speaker for Growth Faculty, says trust is at the core of everything that is right or wrong with any team.

How to get better at collaboration and teamwork

Pat says an absence of trust is a warning signal that team members are not being vulnerable with each other, he explains. So, he suggests:

·       Create clarity. Everyone on the team must be rowing in the same direction. The leaders at the top must be in lockstep with each other around 6 Critical Questions:

-      Why do we exist?

-      How do we behave?

-      What do we do?

-      How will we succeed?

-      What is important, right now?

-      Who must do what?

·       Be vulnerable. “No one is perfect, but team members must be vulnerable, and the leader has to go first,” says Pat. It’s vital for teams to have vulnerability-based trust at their core. This is where people feel safe to say ‘I don’t know answer to that’, ‘I think I made a mistake’, ‘I’m sorry.

·       Work on self -awareness. Work to know what impact your behaviour has on others (and regulate that behaviour) – and inclusion and belonging.



Linda Kaplan Thaler grew up poor in the Bronx in the U.S. but through determination and grit co-founded with Robin Koval a highly successful ad agency Kaplan Thaler (Anyone remember the 'When Harry Met Sally'-inspired, daring “Yes, Yes, Yes” campaign for Clairol Herbal Essences and the “I don’t want to grow up I’m a Toys R Us Kid” jingle?). 

In their book Grit to Great, they credit their challenging upbringings for their strong work ethic and collaborative spirit.

How do you develop grit?   

Linda says grit comes from Guts, Resilience, Initiative, and Tenacity. She suggests you:

·       Look for your intrinsic drivers (your internal goals and values).

·       Ask yourself “What do I stand for?”

·       Be a plodder, not a dreamer.

·       Deal with everyday roadblocks, don’t focus too much on that dream of future success.



A lot of entrepreneurs have creativity among their strongest characteristics. They can think up unusual, original, and innovative solutions to problems – a highly marketable skill. 

“Some of the most creative people simply don’t fit into well-behaved moulds,” says Jim Collins in his book ‘B.E.2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0)’. “They’re often rebels, irritating and somewhat out of control.”

Creativity thrives best when others in the team are supportive, by actively developing soft skills like empathy, listening, and communication.

How Can You Be More Creative?

Here are Growth Faculty speaker ideas on encouraging creativity in the workplace.

·       Kylie Lewis says a psychologically safe workplace is where people are willing to take risks and continue making forward momentum. People feel a strong sense of inclusion and belonging.

·       Stephen M.R. Covey says greatness is unleashed with a trust and inspire leader.

·       Creative solutions to problems are more likely where diversity and inclusion is actively celebrated. 


Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes doesn’t sound like much of a skill, but it most certainly is. In fact, the higher up the leadership ladder you go, the more important it is.

As we say in our article on Emotional Intelligence, empathy is a powerful communication skill that honours another’s feelings.

A leader with empathy is better at giving critical feedback, being a good listener, and building a positive work atmosphere.

How Can You Develop Empathy In The Workplace?

While empathy is developed in good part via genetics and upbringing, it can be developed. Positive Psychology suggests:

·       Be present with people when you talk to them. Really notice their feelings.

·       Learn something new or travel. Experience what it’s like to be unable to do something.

·       Talk to people about important things in their lives. Mix with people from other backgrounds.


A Queens University study found that when considering promotions, 86% of managers looked for employees with a positive attitude.

We saw earlier how being positive when faced with change is great for adaptability, but being positive generally is, well, positive!

As Jon Gordon, author of The Power of a Positive Team’, says, a team’s collective energy and optimism is made up of each person’s belief and optimism.

How to develop positivity in the workplace

One negative person can totally sabotage the team, the organisation, and the customer experience.

To be positive, Jon Gordon suggests:

·       Feed your positive dog. There are two “dogs” inside each of us. One dog is the positive, optimistic, and energetic dog. One is mean spirited, angry, and pessimistic. Who wins in a fight? The one you feed the most.

·       Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself. Triathlete Dr James Gills says this: “If I listen to myself, I hear all the negative, but if I talk to myself, I feed myself with encouragement.”


As we know, adaptability (AQ) became a highly valued skill in the pandemic. Team members who viewed change positively were able to handle the crisis better than those who resisted that change.

International executive coach John Spence told our adaptability masterclass that cultivating emotional intelligence (EQ) and self-awareness helps us better understand and manage our reactions to change.

How do we develop more of the adaptability soft skill?

·       Practice scenario planning. Practice problem-solving and critical thinking to find creative solutions to challenges.

·       Be a glass half-full person.

·       Develop a growth mindset and continuously learn new skills and knowledge.


Leadership skills could be said to be a soft skill in their own right. Most people can name the “multiplier” or “diminisher” traits of leaders they’ve worked under.

For example, a key trait of a multiplier leader is intellectual curiosity. Instead of blame, the curious leader looks for answers as to why a mistake was made. The leader questions their own assumptions. The leader sends out belonging signals, and notices when team members are quiet quitting.  

How do I become a better leader?

·       Become a better leader with a Growth Faculty Pass. Modern leadership requires development in areas such as empathy, self-awareness, inclusivity, psychological safety, trust, team-building, communication, unlearning, and adaptability.

·       These skills and more are among core topics included in our Growth Faculty Pass

·       Unlimited access to 40 live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events – PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries.

·       Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. See who’s up next.


1.     Davos 2023: A Conversation with Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, World Economic Forum

2.     Henri de Grossouvre, Sylvia Hakopian, Soft skills: hard science and prospects for the youth, European Scientist

3.     New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology, 2015, World Economic Forum

4.     Communicating in the modern workplace, infographic, Queens University of Charlotte website

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash


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