Monthly Blog - March 2018

The Rising Importance of Soft and Social Skills

Ready, Set... Time to Say Please and Thank You Again.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded their company on the conviction that only computer technologists could truly understand computer technology. Their company, Google, now Alphabet, has become so mainstream that ‘Google’ has become a verb, as in: “I googled to find warm, wool socks.”  It is hard to imagine our lives without the comfortable phrase, “Google it.”

In 2013, Google undertook Project Oxygen to answer the question, ‘What skills are most important for an employee to succeed at Google?’

The results were a major surprise.

Google had originally set hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with the best grades from the best universities. After crunching every bit of data from hiring, firing and promotion since the company’s founding in 1998, Project Oxygen surprised everyone by concluding, that among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise came in dead last.

The top six characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills:

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Possessing insights into others (including different values and points of view)
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  5. Being a good, critical thinker and problem solver
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas

This is all very interesting. For the 62,000 employees of Google, soft skills do matter for many of Google’s employees. But what about the A-level invention teams? Surely, technical skills count for more?

This past spring, Google launched Project Aristotle, to look at the importance of soft skills in high-tech environments. The data analysis from Project Aristotle found the company’s most important ideas came from B-teams made up of employees who may not have been the smartest in the room.
Project Aristotle found the best teams at Google displayed a wide range of soft skills:

  • Equality
  • Generosity
  • Curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates
  • Empathy
  • Emotional Intelligence

Topping the list was:

  • Emotional Safety
  • No Bullying

To be successful, every team member must feel confident about speaking up and making mistakes. They must know and understand they are being heard.

This is all well and good for a company like Google. But does this information work across the economy as a whole?

A recent survey of 260 employers by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers, which includes small firms as well as giant firms like Chevron and IBM found that communication skills rank in the top three most-sought after qualities by job recruiters. The ability to communicate with fellow workers and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside of the organization.

Having strong, cognitive skills are increasingly a necessity—but not a sufficient—condition for obtaining a good, high-paying job. You also need to have social skills.
Tech skills matter. They do. But when it comes to use and application across a variety of contexts, soft and social skills start to become very important.

How do your soft and social skills rank?


Ready, Set…time to say please and thank you again.


Remember: Share your goodness, far and wide, as much as you can, with as many people as you can, for as long as you can, with as much respect as you can.

Ready, Set…Time to Say Please and Thank You again.