4 Essential Soft Skills for Small Business

April 12, 2017 Pete Jansons

Hard skills undoubtedly play a vital part in an employee’s success at a small business. From troubleshooting tech problems to keeping financial records, these competencies enable workers to perform specific job-related duties essential to small business operations.

But a recent CareerBuilder survey showed that the vast majority of employers (77 percent) believe that an employee’s soft skills (less tangible skills associated with one’s personality and ability to relate to others) are just as important as hard skills. In fact, 16 percent of employers said soft skills are more important than hard skills when evaluating candidates for a job.

In order to form a team of employees with outstanding soft skills, you must first determine which soft skills are most vital to your small business. Prized attributes vary by workplace, but four of the most desirable at a small business oftentimes include:


When staff size is limited, every employee’s actions count. Small business owners need workers they can rely on to meet deadlines, deliver quality work, prioritize tasks and act in the best interests of the company. In the CareerBuilder survey, dependability and work ethic tied for the top spot when employers listed the soft skills they look for when hiring.


Members of a small business team must juggle many roles. People who can adapt to the company’s ever-changing needs and aren’t afraid to step out of their comfort zones are invaluable to a small business.


Innovators push small businesses to think outside the box to operate effectively, stay competitive and reach new heights. And because lack of resources tends to be a problem for most small businesses, what company couldn’t use a creative problem-solver who can do more with less?

Positive attitude

In tight quarters, one bad apple quickly spoils the bunch. But workers who can embrace change, remain confident and lift spirits keep themselves and others motivated. Research shows that, of new hires who failed within 18 months, 89 percent of the time it was due to attitudinal reasons (only due to lack of skill 11 percent of the time).

Soft skills, however, can be difficult to measure objectively and even more difficult to spot in potential employees. But small business owners can take the following steps to build a team with the attributes they desire:

  1. Interview with care. Place as much emphasis on evaluating candidates’ soft skills as you would their hard skills. Ask about times the candidate had to overcome a challenge, work with a team, or learn something new. Inquire about time-management strategies. Then, call references to see what they have to say about the potential hire’s attitude and actions.
  2. Teach soft skills. Is someone on your small business staff a to-do list wizard? Assign that person to mentor colleagues less adept at prioritizing and organizing. Or perhaps everyone on the team could benefit from viewing a webinar on expanding creativity or reading a book on increasing positivity.
  3. Set goals. Work with each individual to determine which soft skills could use improvement. Create an action plan, and set a time-frame for evaluation of progress. When members of your small business team know which attributes you require of employees, they’ll work on developing these soft skills just as they would hard ones.


Set your employees up for success. Check out How to Develop Your Small Business Employees Into Leaders.



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