Soft Skills and Hard Skills


We often hear talk, especially in the workplace, of cross-cutting skills, also called soft skills. But what are they and how can we implement them?

Soft skills are, by definition, those abilities and characteristic traits of an individual that are both integral parts of their personality and attitude. Precisely for this reason it is not easy to define soft skills, specifically as they include a wide range of personal attitudes and attributes, communication abilities and also generic social attitudes that can also be expressed in the workplace, such as the skill to work in groups and to smooth out differences.

It is difficult to find a measure for soft skills: in fact, commonly used performance tests (such as the IQ test) either fail to measure them or measure them inaccurately or incorrectly, since they are not able to provide an objective assessment and measurement of traits that are essentially related to personality.

In the face of soft skills, we have the hard skills that seem easier to define and above all to quantify: hard skills are, by definition, teachable abilities and easily measurable. Generally, hard skills are simply identified as those technical abilities that fit the job and are then learnt in the classroom or online courses, or even more simply on the job. It is obvious that hard skills are essential to carry out a certain job: who among you would like to be operated on by a surgeon full of empathy but who cannot insert the stitches?

To be successful, especially in the workplace, soft skills are equally necessary. Precisely because of their importance, they are the subject of much study and an attempt is made to define which ones a possible candidate for a job should have in order to positively fit into the company’s organization chart.

The importance given to soft skills in the workplace should not come as a surprise to us, especially when we consider that, precisely in this area, thanks to technological developments, we are witnessing the transformation of work, aimed at the creation of wealth, moving from physically-based to one based on knowledge and skills that allow us to work together, find shared solutions, develop creativity etc.

For this reason, the current workforce and even more in the future, in order to keep up, must support the hard skills with the soft skills that the labor market requires by focusing on learning the new skills.

In this context, the World Economic Forum has tried to define what skills the ideal candidate should have, and which will therefore be more in demand from the workplace, identifying them as:

Complex problem solving

Critical thinking


People management

Coordinating with others

Emotional intelligence

Judgment and decision-making

Service Orientation


Cognitive flexibility

Making your skillset better is possible and involves, in particular, adhering to a training process, not only of learning, which can also be very complex as it involves various factors such as interpersonal and group interaction abilities, the linguistic process, specific temperament, empathy and resilience.

The training process in the field of soft skills is necessary, important, and achievable.

What to do?

First of all, we need to realize what skills we are lacking the most: the easiest way to find out what are our greatest weaknesses is to ask those who know us well and who we know are able to talk to us in an open and honest way. Once we understand what we want to implement, we need to make steady progress by spending time practicing. Just as we can learn hard skills so we can learn soft skills. The ingredients are the same: study, practice, and application.

For this you will need a selection of high-quality content that you can find both in books, in class and online courses. No matter what skill needs to be improved, it is important to put into practice the new knowledge you have acquired.

This does not always seem easy.

The key words to achieve success in learning new skills are commitment, determination, perseverance. Sometimes, however, it’s not enough and then the best thing is to turn to a psychologist who can help you develop the skills you need in an effective and rapid way and above all be able to create and customize a specific and targeted learning approach.

Dr. Patrizia Pietropaolo

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