Focusing on the Soft Skills

Posted on February 05, 2018 by Angela Splinter

The nature of work is always changing. Today, as technology and demographics evolve, our skills have to keep up or else we risk being automated out of a job.

But some talents simply cannot be replaced by technology. I am referring to the “soft skills.” The skills that make us who we are as humans: our ability to interact with others.

These social, emotional, and critical thinking skills are often observed in successful business people, politicians, and leaders.

These are people who have the ability to truly connect with others. People who challenge the status quo. People who can build and maintain genuine relationships.

As the trucking industry braces for what many think will be disruptive changes, success will come from a combination of hard work, business savvy, and a focus on people. Here are some examples of how the soft skills can factor in.

New technologies

Decisions need to be made about which technologies will enhance operations and keep you competitive. These new technologies will require people who can think critically, analyze data and trends, identify and solve problems, and have outstanding communication skills.

Elon Musk of Tesla is a good example. The Tesla electric semi-truck introduction illustrates how to effectively build buzz. And, there are people in the industry who will be early adopters; eager to experiment with the technology. Many others will take the time to digest information, critically assess how the truck performs, and patiently wait to see how Tesla’s competition responds.

Employees who are charged with this analysis will then need to articulate their rationale to senior managers. As is often the case in marketing, it is much easier to drink the Kool-Aid than to explain what’s in it. But clear communication is a skill we need during times of profound change.

The changing workforce

Our workforce is increasingly diverse with different cultures, genders, generations, ideas, and approaches. Managers will need to draw on their social and emotional skills in order to foster a workplace culture that values this diversity and builds effective teams. Managers will need to hone their communication skills, too, to make sure staff are aware of their roles in the organization, and how new technologies will impact their workplace specifically.

XTL Transport is a good example here. Last October, they received Trucking HR Canada’s 2017 Top Fleet Employer Achievement of Excellence Award for workplace diversity.

They train their managers to conduct bias-free interviews; their workplace inclusion program helps new immigrants integrate fully into the XTL culture; and their driver mentorship program focuses specifically on the soft skills and informal norms of the job. As a result, XTL has a great workplace culture with happy employees stemming from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and more.

Government relations

Public policy regarding safety, environmental impacts, marijuana legalization, proposed labor legislation changes, and NAFTA will all impact trucking and logistics.

And here the soft skills of industry leaders will be put to the test.

Our government relations work needs a strong team of people who can manage relationships; clearly formulate, articulate, and communicate ideas; and successfully negotiate and persuade. More than ever we need leaders with the ability to build consensus and have the fortitude to stay the course.

My example here? The Canadian Trucking Alliance has excelled at this for years, and will continue to leverage its experience, connections, and in-house expertise. It is the soft skills that has helped make them one of the most effective lobby groups in the country.

Whether we are competing for business, employees, or for the industry as a whole, the team with those soft skills – and the willingness to do everything humanly possible to connect with others – will come out ahead.