Hard vs. Soft

September 1, 2011

I interned this summer at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the company's healthcare strategy and operations advisory group. There, I had the fortunate opportunity to work on interesting projects alongside extraordinary people in a firm that places particular value on work-life balance and the professional development of its employees. I thus not only had the opportunity to utilize and develop the "hard skills" involved in consulting, but I also was able to gain firsthand exposure to the positive impacts of effective implementation of "soft skills" in management.The hard skills are those we acquired from the majority of our core classes. They are the skills we as business school students expect to learn in a typical program that eventually enable you to extrapolate, interpret, and present useful information to clients, supervisors, investors, etc. Great. The soft skills are those we learn in classes like Employee, Careers, and Managing Groups and Teams, where taglines trend toward managing employees in a manner that motivates them to enjoy being at work and to naturally want to contribute to the direction of the company, regardless of financial compensation. In the end, we learned, investment in good management practices will pay out in multiples, making your company better off. Indeed, as an employee of a 175,000 person firm, it was certainly a treat to feel individually valued. My managers went to great lengths to ensure my professional development, on the job satisfaction, and even happiness, while I, in turn, sought to repay the favor through hard work and dedication to the achievement of company goals. To be sure, loyalty to the company's mission among my full-time co-workers was just as prevalent. The soft skills involved in effective management are less commonly taught in business schools, but I think this ought to change. While learning hard skills is undoubtedly important to our careers and development as future businesspeople, acquiring soft skills, and learning how to implement them effectively, may very well be the difference between success and failure of your future company. Keep up the good work, SOM.

About the author

Randy Pinchuk