Ah – remember being graded in kindergarten about your social skills? Did you play well with others?

Well, it turns out that what we are taught at this early age – things like sharing, caring and going with the flow — are also VERY applicable to our workplace.

A new study, conducted by David Deming, an Associate Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard, points out that the labor market increasingly rewards social skills.

Since 1980, occupations that require strong social skills have grown in share of jobs more than other occupations. This includes jobs such as social worker and registered nurse. On the other hand, occupations focused on manual labor, such as truck driver, machine operator and carpenter declined in share.

When social skills are combined with higher math skills, the numbers are even more impressive.  So, if you are a computer scientist working on a group project with lots of interaction, you are in a profession that’s booming.

So, although automation and technology have eliminated some jobs (i.e. toll collector, bank teller and soon perhaps ‘driver’), jobs that require a human touch and an understanding and sensitivity to social interaction can’t be replicated by a machine, robot or computer.

Google has done some research on what factors determined the best manager. And guess what? Technical expertise was not the answer. It was ‘soft’ skills such as making time in their one-on-one meetings and assisting others in problem solving.

Sadly, our education system isn’t structured to help students learn these important job skills. Soon after kindergarten, children are removed from the playground and lectured to prepare for tests in hard skills.

Maybe we should encourage our schools to open up the doors and let everyone run outside to play – and learn how to share, care and go with the flow.


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