There’s been much research and banter in the job market about the looming “skills gap.” Some of that research lauds “hard” skills, while other research emphasizes “soft” skills, leaving many to ponder: “what’s the difference?”

Let’s start by defining the word, skill. Simply put, skill is what you can do with what you know. More formally, skill is defined as “the ability to do something well; expertise” (Oxford dictionary). When we attend to hard skill and soft skill, these are differentiated by utility.

Most often, hard skills can be correlated with technical proficiency. These skills are usually job role and industry-specific. For example, as a consultant, I need to be able to identify root cause of concerns, design initiatives to mitigate and extinguish concerns, and evaluate outcomes. These hard skills are germane to my industry. I gained knowledge about these thematic areas through education, then learned how to effectively apply that knowledge through practice, subsequently honing the skill.

Oxford dictionary defines soft skills as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Soft skills are more general in nature and associated with the cognitive, emotional and social attributes that facilitate productive interpersonal interaction. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “soft skills—which are needed to effectively communicate, problem-solve, collaborate and organize—are becoming more important for success as the workplace evolves socially and technologically.”

Top 10 soft skills for 2022 (Source:

  • Communication
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Time Management
  • Work Ethic
  • Listening

Across the enterprise, there are a wide variety of hard and soft skills being deployed to help Duke accomplish the organization’s vision and mission. To gain a broader insight on the importance of developing and maturing soft skills, see HR’s Hard Challenge: When Employees Lack Soft Skills (

For support with development and maturation of soft skills, visit Training | Human Resources ( for a full list of leadership and professional development offerings that can help. If you are interested in developing soft skills with intact teams, contact Consulting Services at Learning & Organization Development.