How Soft Skills Can Raise the Bar for Today’s IT Employees

The modern tech landscape is inherently dynamic, and with businesses embracing flexible working models and new digital tools, top IT talent is more critical to organizational success than ever before.

In fact, a recent study from LinkedIn found that IT skills like software development, programming, and cloud computing are some of the most in-demand hard skills among employers in 2023.

But what about soft skills like communication, management, and customer service? It may be a strange question at face value, especially when the typical outsider pictures IT as highly technical with limited interactions with colleagues or customers. After all, as long as the necessary systems work, IT has historically been out of sight, out of mind for the average employee.

That is not the case anymore, though. As technology has become more pervasive in our daily lives, the number of responsibilities that fall under the IT umbrella is growing. But worker supply hasn’t exactly matched demand. Despite the IT job market shrinking for the first time in over two years in response to economic pressures, The Wall Street Journal reported that there are still over 109,000 vacant IT jobs due to a lack of qualified candidates.

As a result, the most attractive candidates for employee-starved IT departments will be those who not only demonstrate an ability to build and maintain the proper software and digital tools, but also possess the soft skills required to interact with both internal and external teams. As corporate infrastructure becomes increasingly digital, IT is closer to the end user than ever before and needs to be empathetic, forthcoming, and invested not only in helping end users solve day-to-day problems, but also in enhancing the overall digital experience.

Importance of Customer Communication

IT, sales, and customer service departments all play a role in shaping customer experiences and must work together to deliver the best experiences. The commonly used phrase “communication is key,” significantly comes into play when considering what soft skills are needed to ensure internal departments interact seamlessly.

When it comes to external communication, a customer’s experience can make or break a brand’s reputation or build a loyal customer for life. With IT workers having the deepest understanding of how their platforms work, and often a first point of contact for customers, interaction and communication with customers can break down informational barriers and deliver a better experience for both parties.

When technology and human touch work in tandem, organizations can combine operational efficiency with the kind of genuine understanding that produces long-term customer relationships.

Supporting Internal Soft Skills

The need for soft skills isn’t exclusive to the customer journey, though. In fact, it may even be more critical within internal departments. A recent survey from the Association for Talent Development found that 83% of employers are currently struggling with employees with poor soft skills revealing the increasing importance of building a team that can communicate and empathize with the needs of other departments outside of IT.  There must be an alignment in the overall vision, both at the macro level and as it pertains to the smaller components that work together to keep things running smoothly. For IT leaders, hiring employees that possess these soft skills, well positions them to build a team that is agile and efficient, removing informational barriers and department silos.

Knowing that any error, regardless of its scale, has the potential to endanger an entire ecosystem, puts additional pressure on IT professionals. In fact, a recent survey from GoTo found that that 65% of organizations say they saw an increase in the IT workload in the past year and 92% said they want to reduce the burden on IT through the right software choice. Kenco (a GoTo customer), provides a great example, as the company has found that by leveraging the right tech their team can save time and offload some processes that allow their team to focus on more important tasks.

Bridging The Gap Between Hard and Soft Skills

IT responsibilities have extended to new territories as tech evolution has accelerated, and when it comes to technical knowledge and communication skills, the best employees no longer have just one or the other. Having a cohesive understanding of both—and how they affect each other—can make IT employees invaluable to their teams and companies, and, by extension, their customer bases.

Soft skills can no longer be neglected when hiring and establishing IT teams. Firms must build teams with those that can remain calm under pressure, are resourceful, and are prepared to handle the various obstacles thrown at them. There’s no such thing as over-indexing on empathy, and IT work that is discerning and takes an interest in individuals’ situations can make all the difference for the end customer.

Communication skills show a degree of care and investment in the customer and employee experience, while a strong grasp of the technical side makes practical solutions achievable. The IT employee who can combine both of those qualities to meet the nuanced needs of today’s internal and external stakeholders will not only find that their contributions stretch far beyond IT, but also be well-positioned for career growth.

About the Author

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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