Whilst software developers heavily rely on their technical capabilities and hard skills, soft skills are becoming increasingly important to businesses. In 2020, according to LinkedIn, the most in demand soft skills in general were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. The top ten hard skills included Blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning, AI, and UX.
Based on this, I wanted to investigate what soft skills businesses are looking for in Software Developers. Below I summarise the top 7 soft skills businesses are asking for when hiring Software Developers.
Unsurprisingly communication is high on every hiring managers wish list. Regardless of whether a developer is working onsite or working remotely, they must be able to communicate effectively with other people. These other people may include team members, managers, clients, stakeholders, or users depending on their role and seniority, and it’s critical that developers know how to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures and are aware of what they say, how it could be interpreted, and how it could impact the other person.
Software Developers can often spend long stretches of time working alone on projects but are often required to coordinate with project managers and other team members, or external bodies such as clients and users. It could be a simple as needing to resolve a disagreement over how to do something with a client. The developer needs to take the time to acknowledge the client’s idea, suggest a better way of doing it, and then explain why this is the best course of action.
Active listening and managing boundaries also fall into this category. Giving everybody’s idea space and also explaining when and how to communicate across the team is key.
Software Development largely revolves around solving people’s problems. Whether that’s designing systems that solve a client’s issue, or fixing bugs internally, or even looking to optimise processes, problem solving is at the heart of what developers do. Businesses need developers who are willing to take on complex problems, think creatively and craft effective, out of the box solutions.
Developers should have refined critical thinking which should help them identify issues, create solutions, and sasses those solutions in order to proceed with the best option.
Creativity is key for developers who are working to solve problems which may require unorthodox approaches, methods and ideas. In order for a software team to tap into their creativity, managers need to create a psychologically safe space, remove barriers such as pessimism and humiliation, and encourage open discussion around ideas.
Software developers should motivate themselves and others to think outside the box and try new processes and ideas. Groups that have some training in creativity for problem solving come up with around 350% more ideas that are over 400% more original.
Great Software Developers are confident in what they can do but are open to constructive feedback on areas they don’t know. Developers who are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses are valuable to businesses because they are more likely to be willing to learn and are also more likely to take responsibility and accountability for mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable in any role. They’re a natural part of the process. However, if mistakes are left to manifest and nobody takes responsibility for them, they are likely to develop into bigger and more impactful mistakes. Self-confident developers who are willing to accept and be honest about their weaknesses will make fewer mistakes but will be more honest when they do make mistakes.
Software is constantly evolving, changing, and adapting and great software developers should naturally be curious enough to keep up to date with the latest trends and technologies. By having a good attitude to learning and continuous development, software developers are enabling themselves to improve their problem-solving skills by broadening their knowledge and skill set.
Empathy and emotional intelligence are important, but often overlooked, soft skills. Approximately 35% of company executives think emotional intelligence will be a staple requirement in the workplace by 2022, and 75% of hiring managers value EQ over IQ.
Emotionally intelligent developers will be great listeners, will ask lots of questions, be curious, and have the ability to put themselves in the position of other people.
This ties in all the other points mentioned above but being able to work effectively with others is critical to project delivery. This might include sharing ideas, praising colleagues, offering support to new team members and so on. From a management perspective, encouraging higher levels of employee engagement can reduce absenteeism by over 40% and can increase profitability by over 30%.
As you can probably see, all the soft skills mentioned above compliment and feed into each other. Developers with these attributes are more likely to be well rounded, hard-working, and efficient in what they do, and are less likely to cause any internal conflicts thus leading to higher productivity. Software Developers with a great mix of hard skills and soft skills are a great asset to businesses.
However, the growing software development skill and talent gap is making it increasingly harder to identify, attract, and hire the top tech talent required to craft high performing teams.
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