• Wong Wing Lum

Future of Work | 7 Most In-Demand Soft Skills By Singapore Employers

Updated: 10 hours ago

We gave an overview of why soft skills matter in our 5W1H guide. In this article, we dive into what are the soft skills that Singapore employers are looking for and how you can start to build them.

With rapid globalisation and an increasingly educated workforce, competition has been toughening long before the pandemic hit. Economic indicators have consistently reflected a Singapore economy faced with challenging circumstances. COVID-19 was the final nail to the coffin.

While people have always talked about the importance of soft skills, its urgency and absolute necessity can be felt today. In an uncertain post-pandemic economy, soft skills such as adaptability and creative problem-solving are likely going to make the difference in whether a business sinks or swims.

There are overlaps in recurring mentions of soft skills that Singapore employers are looking for (read this Straits Times Op-ed that provides a landscape view on skills and this CNBC article on how mid-career workers are upskilling). We have found the most comprehensive sweep to be NTUC LearningHub’s Employer Skills survey.

Conducted during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker (April 2020), the survey identifies 10 soft skills that businesses are actively seeking as their top priority.

Top 10 NTUC LearningHub Adaptive Skills
No surprise there that adaptability and resilience skills take the number 1 seat
Top 10 NTUC LearningHub Digital Skills
And of course, digital skills are in-demand with remote work the new norm

With the ‘work-from-home’ era set to stay, it’s also worth mentioning that skillsets in web design (31%) and digital marketing (44%) are amongst the top 10 digital skills identified. A not-so-subtle plug, but while you’re here, check out the courses we have Hatch to help you find employment in these thriving sectors!

Without further ado, here are the 7 soft skills that Singapore employers are looking for (2020 edition)

Communication soft skills

1. Communication

Communication soft skills cover a two-way street: to convey ideas clearly and to listen empathetically to others.

To convey

Great communicators take nuanced approaches when interacting with others in different situations. Take for instance team project discussions which can sometimes lead to unproductive or hurtful clashes of perspectives. An individual who is skilled in communication can tactfully deliver his disagreement while avoiding conflict. Based on their knowledge of their audience’s response, they can adjust their communication styles to articulate ideas with precision and extra sensitiveness when needed.

To listen

Good communicators are also active listeners. This means they put in conscious effort to comprehend what the speaker is saying. While they are at it, they keep an open mind towards new ideas because they seek first to empathise. In the long-term, this establishes rapport and builds trust between colleagues and stakeholders.

Listening soft skill traditional chinese character
For our non-native Chinese speakers, this is the traditional chinese character for "listen"

Some tactics of active listening:

  • Paraphrasing what was said to clarify understanding

  • Asking questions

  • Not interrupting and jumping straight to problem-solving mode

Digital and Non-verbal communication

Digital communication via emails, instant messaging platforms and video conferencing platforms is an undeniable mode of communication in the 21st century working world. Even in written text, subtle cues in tonality are reflective of an individual’s professionalism and friendliness.

Communication can also be implicit through body language and gestures, tonality and facial expressions. Experts generally agree that non-verbal communication makes up 70-93% of all our communication cues. While these reflexes are often involuntary, good communicators can maintain control over their upspoken cues even at the peak of their frustration.

Tips to improve communication skills:

Empathy is the root of effective communication. To understand why people respond in the ways that they do (and vice versa), we must first condition ourselves to be more sensitive to our surroundings. This is where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – the ability to recognise, understand and manage one’s emotions and those around them – comes into play.

Improve your EQ by slowing your thoughts down. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman explains that our brains are wired to form opinions readily, even if there’s insufficient information. We read body language and involuntarily assess the situation at face value. The tendency to jump to conclusions is simply how we are programmed to maximise cognitive ease.

Snap judgment can be avoided by training your mind to be responsive. This means that whenever disagreements arise, assess the situation and think about the ‘why’. Instead of reacting instantly, learn to evaluate the situation. Understand how you’re feeling as well as others. Review the facts and get a better overview of the situation.

As for non-verbal, written communication, here are some tactics on how you can choose kindness when replying to emails that make you want to scream.

Work ethic soft skills

2. Work Ethic

Work ethics is an ensemble of moral principles that reflects the degree to which an employee takes ownership of their work. Examples of values include integrity, honesty, punctuality, and discipline. These individuals hold themselves to high standards in their overall conduct – whether it is to meet deadlines or to follow through with their assignments dutifully.

Having work ethics soft skills is not about being perfect. It’s about being accountable. Those with strong work ethics are self-starters who can be depended on to deliver quality work on time without the need of a supervising authority. Their relentless dedication to their roles shines through in their eagerness to learn. Driven by a commitment beyond their personal goals but that of the company at-large, they are always on the look-out to suggest better ways of working.

Even when they are not asked to, they will put in the extra leg work needed to succeed.

Tips to improve work ethic:

You can foster more ownership by taking more initiative, even if it lies outside of your job scope. When you do so, there’s a shift in mindset towards accountability to achieve the desired outcome. Building a sustainable work ethic goes beyond merely conscientiously following through with tasks. It calls on individuals to truly believe in the importance of what they are doing. When people know what’s the grand vision they are working towards, they can start to truly own their work.

If possible, sit down with leaders to align the values they consider important with your personal code of conduct. For instance, punctuality may be viewed as a crucial factor in some companies, while others may focus more on an employee’s output in place of physical presence. After outlining the values, make a conscious effort to uphold these standards.

Teamwork soft skills

3. Teamwork

Let’s think of soccer. Every member of the team – from the midfielders, strikers, defenders and goalkeepers – has a specific role to play when setting up that winning shot. It may seem like the most significant contribution was from the striker in scoring the goal, but it’s the cumulative effort of the team members that make the victory possible.

Translating this from the soccer field to the workplace, teamwork soft skills are the result of effective communication and good work ethics. Productive teams are clear in who brings what to the table and how their skillsets can complement one another to get the job done. At the base of it, relationships between members are built on trust that every individual pulls their weight.

Because of this mutual respect, team players can work harmoniously even if they don’t see eye to eye with one another.

Effective teamwork is also dependent largely on EQ. Individuals with a keen sense of interpersonal acumen can assess the dynamics within the team and adjust their communication style accordingly. They know exactly when to step up to steer a discussion towards the right direction, or when to dial it down a notch and lift others up.

Tips to improve teamwork skills:

What do you see when you look yourself in the mirror?

To be a good player, you must first succeed on an individual level. Exercise some introspection to suss out your strengths and areas of improvement. Similarly, you should understand your teammates’ strengths. Teams that work well together are those who understand how they can play to the strengths of every member.

On a management level, leaders can build stronger teams by crafting goals and monitoring their members’ milestones.

SMART Framework

The SMART framework can serve as a guide on how to craft achievable goals focused on outcomes. Goalsetting helps to set everyone in the right frame of mind so that individuals know exactly what they are working towards. On top of setting objectives, leaders should also define the standard of excellence for different roles. In doing so, team members have a clear vision of what’s expected of them.

Of course, the best of both worlds would be a team that delivers professionally and also gets along personally. To begin building trust and rapport among team members, start strengthening interpersonal relationships between members. The blob tree is a great communication tool to help teams articulate their feelings and bridge their understanding of one another.

Problem solving soft skills

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is the mindset to approach, analyse and effectively solve difficult or unexpected obstacles with a level-headed mentality. Competence in other soft skills such as communication, work ethics and teamwork directly impact one’s problem-solving capabilities. Active listening and empathy pave the way to truly unearthing a problem’s root cause, while work ethic drives the diligence to cover all grounds.

You’ll find that many soft skills guides tend to use critical thinking, creative thinking and analytical thinking synonymously with problem-solving. For clarity, think of the abovementioned three as subskills. ‘Solving a problem’ is the end result you get from applying the three ways of thinking.

Among the subskills, there are also distinct differences that set them apart.

Comparing critical thinking, creative thinking and analytical thinking

There are generally four standard steps to approach any problems.

Problem solving steps
  1. Identifying the “why”: The first step to solving any problem is to sieve out its root cause. To do so, individuals must learn to gather and analyse data. At this point, it’s crucial to be armed with the technical capabilities of interpreting data and identifying patterns.

  2. Generating ideas: Once the causes identified, the next step is to ideate. Build a picture of what is the desired outcome (goals) and the barriers preventing the goal from being reached.