Why Soft Skills Matter and I Can’t Wait to Get My Hair Cut

Todd Raphael
Todd Raphael

I’m looking forward to getting back to my barber, Tina. Partly it’s that my hair is a Zoom embarrassment. And partly I go to Tina because, at $20 plus $5 tip, she’s reasonable, and close, two miles. Mostly, though, it’s because I know her at this point and am looking forward to asking about her and her kids and her business, and her asking about me.

And therein lies the reason so many of us are looking forward to a haircut, oil change, or mani-pedi. Yes, our cars have reached beyond 5,000 miles and our toenails self-painted via YouTube video are a little rough around the edges.

But it’s also about a personal connection to the merchant. The hard skills get you the state license to open the business. The soft skills keep you in business: customer service, listening, time management, getting along with people, collaboration, communication, persuasion, empathy, and the emotional intelligence of the owner or waiter or customer-service person being able to learn what you want, and what you don’t want. (One of my relatives recently left her hairdresser because he talked too much!)

It is these soft skills that are so valuable. They’re actually becoming “more and more valuable over time,” according to Josh Bersin.

And they’re transferrable. They’re what can make a flight attendant successful at a retail store. They’re what make a bartender successful at a bank (something one of our financial-services customers learned). Read more.

Too often, the talent management world has thought inside a narrow box. We need a bank teller, let’s search for a bank teller. We need a restaurant manager, let’s find a restaurant manager.

Employees, job seekers — we’ve done the same to ourselves.

I’ve worked in a restaurant forever. I know foodservice like the back of my hand. But it’s all I know. I just don’t see what else I can do.

We’ve all thought that way at times, about our own work. But we can think beyond that.

What do those restaurant employees really do? Scheduling. Inventory. Sales. Budgeting. Payroll. Safety. People management. Hiring. More.

Collectively, we as a society need to think about skills transference. Now. We are dealing with people out of work, by the millions, furloughed by airlines, hotels, restaurants, and retailers. And with people hiring in massive quantity too: the Amazons, the groceries, the drug stores, the healthcare organizations, some tech companies, delivery companies, and more.

Eightfold has launched the Talent Exchange to match large companies’ laid-off or furloughed employees with large companies hiring in bulk. It allows those companies doing the furloughs to connect with the ex-employees later, possibly hiring them back. It’s meant to bypass a tremendous amount of friction and middlemen and agencies and boards and get people job offers, quickly.

Take a look at the Talent Exchange. Those soft skills Tina has, and your favorite mechanic, waiter, barista, and bank teller has, are of great value to employers worldwide. And those skills can be found in abundance among laid-off and furloughed employees right now. We can help put those skills back to great use.

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