In a recent article found on LinkedIn, Josh Bersin wrote about the explosive growth in Learning & Development. The report covers many interesting trends in the learning space, but one area that stood out for me was their research about the most in-demand skills today.

What are those skills?

They are categorized as “soft skills” and include:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion (selling)
  • Analytic reasoning
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability

This, along with Alexandra Levit‘s research for Humanity Works, prove that employers feel soft skills are critically important.

Employers also believe that these soft skills are harder to find than tech skills.

Universities appear to be doing a good job of preparing students with needed technical skills but are out of touch with what employers need in terms of these soft skills. In fact, Bersin’s article notes that leadership development is the most “unsolved problem” learning & development professionals face within companies.

Strong leaders have strong soft skills. So what can be done to close the skill gap?

Consider these recommendations:

  1. Expand the definition of a training budget – Don’t just allot dollars for training. Instead, Allow for a TIME budget. Not having designated time is a huge barrier to learning. Meaning, ensure that a set number of hours are set aside for training activities, just like vacation/PTO hours. Distinguish those hours for soft vs. tech/functional skills training. Hold people accountable for meeting their training hours “budget.”
  2. Blend classroom/online training with practical application – Formalize the use of the “practice and apply” concept where trainees are given assignments after training to apply what they learned back in their work environment. Or, use coaches to carry the learning concepts beyond the classroom.
  3. Measure and reward the effectiveness of soft skills – Be sure that the critical soft skills are accounted for in performance reviews and provide feedback and coaching to people about what they do well and where they need to develop further. Remember, what get’s measured, gets done!

While AI can and will replace much of the routine work we do today, algorithms can never replace what humans can do.

Humans have experiences that lend context for more refined decision-making. We can also think beyond the rules and ask “what if” questions. Our intuition and empathy give us a unique ability to discern nuances of a situation before making judgments.

While technology advances are impacting all sorts of jobs, don’t forget the importance of the human factor. The soft skills are what differentiates us and where we add great value!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at