Balancing Human Skills in the Workplace With Hard Skills to Produce Leaders Who Shine

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Finding leaders who have an ideal mix of human skills and technical or work skills is difficult. But through training, coaching and reinforcement of good behaviors, organizations can develop leaders who are technically skilled, empathetic and able to improve employee performance and wellbeing.

HR executives know all about employer-rating lists like “Best Companies to Work For.” And they know the proliferation of these lists reflects an important point: Organizations want to showcase themselves in the best possible light to prospective and current employees.

One list that’s disappeared is Fortune magazine’s “Top 10 Toughest Bosses,” which highlighted CEOs with successful track records but who created difficult working environments. That list is no longer likely because it’s become apparent that overly tough bosses can drive away talent.

Forward-thinking organizations no longer consider leaders’ supposed toughness as a determinant for success. Instead, they seek balance between “hard” skills and human ones.

Calling out the humanity factor

Why is the humanity factor important? Management with “human skills” can boost employee engagement and productivity while reducing turnover. One survey reported a 37-percentage-point jump over a previous survey in employees describing themselves highly engaged when they consider their boss “human.” And highly engaged employees can improve their team’s performance up to 27%.1

Such numbers show that successful leadership is not just about meeting sales quotas or efficiency targets. Nor is it about only having the skills to develop new products or manage the balance sheet.

That’s because when bosses lack human skills to go along with their “hard” ones, they lose talented employees and may have difficulty hiring new ones. Eventually, all the success they’ve generated can evaporate.

Developing human skills in the workforce

There is sizable evidence that managers with the right balance of hard and human skills respect employees’ dignity and will infuse ethical considerations into their decision-making process. That type of leader will inspire employees to work harder while increasing loyalty.

It is a rare manager who possesses the experience and judgment to know the policy manual, understand their employees’ individually and realize that employees are more than a number or a labor input.

Training people to be good leaders is not so simple nor straightforward. People can be trained to do accounting, program a computer or serve customers at a restaurant. But training managers to be empathetic and compassionate is more subtle: It consists of helping individual managers understand that compassion and trust are positive attributes that will advance their careers.

Why “human” leaders are good leaders

Consider what makes good leaders. A good leader understands people and their individual perspectives and motivates through positivity, not fear. A good leader is flexible and can adjust to changing conditions inside and outside the company.

In today’s world, leaders are made and not born. Training and continuous feedback for managers will help them grow into their roles. In addition, the tendency to assume good workers will be good managers is often engrained into an organization’s culture. It can be difficult to adopt a new perspective. But if an organization can produce leaders that embrace human skills, it will not only influence improved performance and behaviors in their people but establish a model for future leaders to follow.

Learn about how HUB International’s People & Technology practice can help connect the dots between high-tech HR functions and high-touch service.

1 Gartner, “Gartner HR Research Identifies Human Leadership as the Next Evolution of Leadership,” June 23, 2022.

reprinted with permission – –

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