As the job market shifts and new doors open, it’s critical for IT leaders to hire talented tech pros who are empathetic, forthcoming, and invested in helping the end user through their work.

Jeremy Rafuse, VP of IT and Head of Digital Workplace, GoTo

May 17, 2023

4 Min Read
Soft skills concept. Building blocks representing various soft skill traits
Paradee Kietsirikul via Alamy Stock

The positive impact of technology can be felt across a variety of businesses, industries, and working styles now more than ever before. Without a doubt, technology has demonstrated its potential to make the impossible possible -- from connecting employees around the world to streamlining key processes in between. And while innovative tools like AI, machine learning, and ChatGPT can potentially help IT teams get more done in less time, it’s important to recognize that technology doesn’t bring soft skills to the table -- humans do. Once upon a time, IT workers could get hired and promoted based on pure technical know-how, but that’s no longer enough to make an impression in the workforce. CIOs and IT teams are no longer siloed strictly to the world of technology systems throughout their careers.

As the job market shifts and new doors open for these professionals, it’s critical for IT leaders to hire talent who are empathetic, forthcoming, and invested in helping the end user through their work. With 92% of business leaders from a recent survey saying it was a company priority to reduce the burden on IT, these attributes are essential building blocks of providing positive interactions with customers and employees, which have the potential to make-or-break relationships within a business from both an internal and external perspective.

To that end, soft skills serve as the utmost force multiplier for IT, and CIOs and IT departments more broadly must recognize their impact on the future success of a business and its ability to retain customers. Soft skills are also a key element of determining how IT departments approach their future, whether by influencing how teams adapt to remote work or how they strategize around supply chain challenges, for example.

While the inherent value of interpersonal skills was often overlooked when it comes to assembling IT teams, the advantage these skills bring to the table are now vital to an IT worker’s career trajectory and a business’ ultimate success. These advantages move beyond the everyday and extend to the overall success of the business. Employees with well-developed soft skills impact the bottom line, and in fact soft skills training can boost retention by 12% and deliver a 250% return on investment.

Balancing Hard and Soft Skills

IT leaders are taking this into account and future-proofing their teams by prioritizing applicants (especially IT managers) with a balance of hard and general skills. Strong management and customer service skills are some of the most sought-after IT skills on the market, according to LinkedIn, making applicants with these offerings most in demand. Other integral soft skills that set candidates apart are empathy, emotional intelligence, and patience.

Successful IT teams no longer sit behind closed doors and approach work from a reactive standpoint -- they serve as a proactive collective that operates in close alignment with business leaders and remains in lockstep with them to ensure business goals parallel IT goals. IT teams should position themselves as a business partner, not just a cost center. In addition, with increased competition amid the labor shortage and tech layoffs, it’s important to recognize that soft skills can make applicants stand out, as the most successful IT departments are filled with resourceful individuals who are happy, helpful, and willing to find answers to provide the best possible customer service experience. These types of soft skills make it clear how those with a range of skills and the ability to learn are often those who are better able to offer pleasant and gratifying interactions with customers, ultimately making a big difference on the success of a business and its bottom line.

Leveraging Soft Skills to Level-Up IT

As companies continue to onboard hybrid employees and look to remove barriers felt within a remote workforce, providing the best possible technical support remains a key element of that process. For an IT team that has grasped soft skills, developing a metaphorical playbook for onboarding employees and optimizing its technology infrastructure, tools, business processes, and ultimately its culture is made that much easier. To that end, company employee and customer retention rates can now be attributed to IT and digital experience, particularly as organizations look to remain within a largely virtual work world.

It’s clear that needs are changing. It’s no surprise that in 2023, of the 10 most in-demand skills, management, communication, and teamwork are among the top. IT teams must embrace their role in actively contributing to a company’s overall digital experience, from an internal perspective as well as in the experience it delivers externally to its customers and stakeholders.

About the Author(s)

Jeremy Rafuse

VP of IT and Head of Digital Workplace, GoTo

Jeremy Rafuse is VP of IT & Head of Digital Workplace at GoTo. At GoTo, we’re making IT easy, anywhere, with remote management and support, and business communication software, unified with one admin solution. We help you get things done simply and securely, so work time can be well-spent and free time can be better spent. GoTo’s portfolio, which includes GoTo Resolve, Rescue, GoTo Connect, and more, helps securely support and connect businesses to what’s most important: their teams and customers.

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