Social-Emotional Skills—Not “Hard” Skills—Are the Most Desirable + Employable Skills

5 Jan

With the future of work more uncertain than ever, researchers have been working to identify skills that will remain in demand across professional fields and industries. One McKinsey Institute study of 18,000 people across 15 countries found that 75% of skills employers look for in their employees are cognitive, interpersonal, and self-leading capabilities.

Nonprofit education advocacy organization America Succeeds has also completed extensive research on the skills today’s students will need to find success in the future job market. They call them durable skills—all of them are transferable, social-emotional competencies that serve individuals in any number of professional fields. 

These skills and the general ideas behind them have been known by a number of names over the years, including but not limited to the following:

  • Social-emotional skills 
  • Employable Skills
  • Life skills
  • Life readiness skills
  • Soft skills 
  • Behavioral Skills 
  • 21st Century Skills 
  • Communication + Interpersonal Skills
  • Employability Skills 
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Social-Emotional + Academic Learning
  • Character Development
  • Positive Youth Development
  • Whole Child Development
  • Grit + Growth Mindset Development

While these skills go by many different names, ar Wayfinder, we base our curricula at all grade levels on Six Core Skills that prepare students for college, the workforce, and life.

America Succeeds’ 2021 Durable Skills Report shows that, even today, 70% of the skills desired by employers are more social-emotional than technical. These skills are sought out nearly four times more often than the most in-demand technical skills, and are aligned with the types of management, operations, and engineering positions likely to proliferate over the coming decades. 

In 2008, Google launched its Project Oxygen to determine the skills that make great managers at their organization. Since its first iteration, the study has consistently found that the most important skills involve communication, collaboration, self-management, and encouragement. As of 2018, only one of the top ten skills named by Project Oxygen is technical, while the other nine more closely resemble social-emotional, 21st century skills. 

Harvard Business Review has reiterated this same point. They maintain that when hiring tech talent, technical skills are only one small piece of the puzzle—and not even the most important one. Though necessary, technical skills rank lower in importance than skills like collaboration, stress management, and self-efficacy. These latter skills enable employees to succeed at the tasks assigned to them while also contributing to a positive and productive work environment. 

Download our full white paper Putting SEL to Work here to learn more about how SEL and Wayfinder are helping students thrive personally, achieve academically, and build the skills employers are looking for.