Have you ever worked with someone who just seemed to have that "it" factor? That natural ability to navigate complex situations with ease, work effectively in a team, and communicate with empathy and clarity? Chances are, what you were witnessing was the power of soft skills.
Hard skills may be why you hired them, but soft skills are why you keep them. A team that is made up of individuals who possess strong soft skills — such as active listening, adaptability, and relatability — is more likely to work well together, achieve goals, and foster a positive and productive work culture.
Who wouldn’t want to hire someone who communicates like a pro, collaborates like a superstar, leads like a boss, and solves problems like a ninja? In this article, we're going to dive deep into the world of soft skills, exploring what they are, why they're important, and how to assess them in potential new hires. So, if you're ready to take your business to the next level and create a team that truly shines, it's time to start cultivating and prioritizing soft skills. This guide is packed with practical tips and insights to help you harness the power of soft skills and take your business to new heights.
Simply put, they're the non-technical attributes that enable individuals to work effectively with others, communicate clearly, and adapt to different situations. They're the icing on the cake and the cherry on top that takes a candidate from good to great. We are referring to articulation proficiency, social adeptness, managerial expertise, conflict resolution, time organization, pliability, versatility, and teamwork.
Effective communication is crucial in any workplace, and employees with excellent communication skills can articulate their ideas and opinions clearly, listen actively, and build relationships with colleagues and clients. But what about interpersonal skills? These are the qualities that enable individuals to work effectively with others, such as empathy, patience, and emotional intelligence. A team with strong interpersonal skills is more likely to collaborate effectively, handle conflicts professionally, and achieve greater success.
Leadership skills are also essential in any organization. An individual with these talents can inspire and motivate their team, set clear goals and expectations, and lead by example. They're able to delegate effectively, provide feedback, and empower their team to achieve success. And let's not forget about problem-solving. Employees with this skill can identify the root cause of the problem, develop effective solutions, and implement them with precision and accuracy.
Time management is another critical soft skill. Employees who can manage their time effectively can prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and achieve their goals. They multitask without sacrificing quality, and they're able to work efficiently and effectively under pressure. Flexibility and adaptability are also essential in today's rapidly changing business environment. Employees who can adapt to new situations, learn quickly, and adjust their approach are more likely to succeed in the long run.
But it's not just about the individual; collaboration is also essential in any organization. Teams that collaborate effectively are more likely to achieve success, develop innovative solutions, and achieve better outcomes. Collaboration requires strong communication skills, empathy, and the ability to work well with others.
Assessing soft skills in potential hires can be a challenge since they are not always easily quantifiable. So, how can you evaluate a candidate's soft skills effectively?
A personality assessment can provide insights into a candidate's communication style, work style, and leadership potential. With behavioral assessments, you can gain valuable insights into a candidate’s proficiency in solving problems as well as adjusting to changing circumstances.
But it's important to remember that soft skills aren't static — they can be developed and improved over time but assessing them early on can help provide you with valuable next steps.
Remember that soft skills aren't just important for new hires — they're essential for employees at all levels of the organization. Even managers and executives can benefit from developing their soft skills, such as empathy, communication, and collaboration. By modeling these skills, leaders can inspire their employees to do the same and create a culture of success and teamwork.
Employers can invest in the soft skills of current employees through training and development programs, coaching, and mentorship. By investing in the soft skills of employees, employers can create a more positive work environment, boost morale, and improve team dynamics. Plus, employees with excellent soft skills are more likely to be promoted and become leaders within the organization, leading to long-term success.
To foster the development of soft skills you need to lead by example. Managers and leaders who demonstrate strong soft skills are more likely to inspire their employees to do the same. By providing positive feedback, recognizing accomplishments, and creating a supportive work environment, managers can encourage employees to develop their soft skills and strive for excellence.
In addition, employers can encourage collaboration and teamwork by providing opportunities for employees to work on cross-functional projects or participate in team-building activities. Soft skills can also improve job satisfaction, employee retention, and overall happiness in the workplace. Employees who feel valued, respected, and supported are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.
In conclusion, if hard skills are the engine of a workplace, then soft skills are the oil that keeps everything running smoothly. So, if you want your workplace to be a well-oiled machine, it's important to invest in those soft skills. They are essential in any workplace, and employers who prioritize them are more likely to create a positive work environment, boost morale, and achieve long-term success. Whether you're hiring new employees or wanting to develop your existing team, it's important to focus on soft skills like communication, interpersonal skills, leadership, problem-solving, time management, flexibility, adaptability, and collaboration. By doing so, you can create a culture of collaboration, innovation, and success that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.
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You probably have at least one employee like this: your go-to, “set it and forget it” person, the one you’d trust with just about anything. If they were a house, they’d be called “turnkey.” If they were an electronic device, they’d be “plug and play.” When talking about these people, our Omnia clients say, “I wish I could clone her!” or “I’d be all set if I had four more just like him.”
Unfortunately (or fortunately if you really think about it and start digging into the ethical ramifications), cloning hasn’t come that far yet. But, with some planning and preparation, you may be able to do the next best thing: Use your go-to people as benchmarks to help you hire and train new employees just like them.
As my colleague Wendy Sheaffer mentioned, “Benchmarking is finding out what works and using it as the model for making future things work.” This applies to figuring out how to hire for a new or empty position, as she mentioned, and it’s also an effective strategy for finding someone just like your one or two stellar employees.
What is it about these star performers that makes them so amazing? And how do you find someone else just as amazing? I don’t know your go-to employees personally, but I can make a pretty good guess at what makes them awesome.
Did I miss anything? Ask around and find out what makes your go-to employees so wonderful to their colleagues. The more information you have, the better you can clone benchmark them.
You’ll definitely need to dig a little deeper than your standard resume gathering and interview process for this. You may luck out using the traditional methods, like winning the lotto, but do you really want to risk it? Here are some simple ways of improving your odds.
Bonus: Ask your star employees if they can recommend someone. We’ve already established this person has great judgment, so they’re not likely to recommend a dud. Hey, maybe they have an identical twin? You can’t get much closer to a clone than that! Even better, ask them if they see promise in anyone already working in the company. They tend to build relationships around the organization and may be able to identify someone promising before you do.
Once you have your promising new star, consider having them spend some time shadowing your top performer. Let them learn from the best.
While you’re on this quest to replicate your top employees, don’t forget to show appreciation for the ones you already have! Trust me, people are out there looking for them, and you want to make sure they are happy and fulfilled right where they are – with you!
The business world is forever in a state of flux, constantly adjusting to societal, economic, environmental, and industry trends. If your company can stay on pace or get ahead, it will remain relevant and competitive. But, if it cannot, it will fade into the background, ultimately becoming obsolete. That means your firm must nimbly, strategically, and effectively respond to these continuous shifts. We will share the ten skills and traits of a successful change leader to help you navigate these rough waters.
To be a successful change leader, you should possess and continually hone these skills:
During times of transition, you must clearly and transparently communicate what, how, when, and why. Employees need to understand what their new normal will look like, how the process will unfold, when they can expect to see a difference, and why the shift is taking place. But, remember: While logistics are important, the rationale is even more so. If you can demonstrate a compelling reason for the change, you will be more likely to garner the commitment of your workforce.
Pro Tip: View communication as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.
Change is more likely to stick if you collaborate with employees from all levels and departments within your company. For best results, empower them to contribute their ideas, voice their concerns, and help shape strategic plans. They will feel like they are collectively working towards a shared goal and that they have a sense of ownership of the initiative. Plus, you will benefit from hearing various perspectives, which can result in more thoughtful and holistic decision-making.
3. Decision Making
While you should collaborate with and listen to different stakeholders within your organization, it is your job to make the final call after weighing their input. You must use your expertise, instincts, and research to decide that change is necessary, what adjustments to make, when to pivot, and how to carry out the project. You must own your choices, regardless of the outcome.
You are in charge for a reason, but you are not an expert in all areas, nor can you handle every task. That is why you have a team. So, to ensure the success of your change initiative, you must leverage their talent through effective delegation. When the right person gets aligned with the right task, you will be amazed at what the group can accomplish.
5. Project Management
Executing a corporate change often involves coordinating many moving parts, so your project management skills need to be on point. You will have to track the project’s budget, timeline, deliverables, and more. You will also be responsible for measuring progress, solving bottlenecks, adjusting the schedule as needed, keeping the team on track, and, ultimately, achieving the objective.
To be a successful change leader, you should have these innate traits:
As the leader, you are the north star for your employees. They look to you for guidance — especially during uncertain times. That means your vision must be strong and clear so that you can show your team the way to success.
Change needs to originate from the top, so you have to be the most committed person on your team. You must be willing to work hard and champion the cause for the long haul — even when you get tired or encounter challenges. The benefit? Your dedication should inspire similar behavior from your employees.
Change is hard, especially if it is a long, drawn-out process. That is why empathy is such a critical trait for you to have. You must take the time to gauge how each team member feels and offer your genuine caring and support as needed. If you do, your employees will be more likely to stick by you and perform at a high level — even if they are being adversely affected.
As your employees carry out the vision, they are bound to have questions and concerns. Therefore, you must be approachable so they feel like they can come to you for guidance. That way, they get the answers they need to keep the project on track.
10. Positive Energy
Making a significant shift takes a lot of sustained effort, so your team needs your positive energy to keep them motivated. With eternal optimism, encouragement, bravery, and good humor, you can inspire them to keep going — no matter what. Together, you will achieve your company’s goal.
So, how do you know if you (or someone on your team) has the skills and traits required to be a successful change leader? That is where our research-backed cognitive and behavioral assessments come in. In less than 30 minutes, you can get the insight you need about any employee — including yourself!
Our assessments dive deep into a team member’s:
2. Communication style
4. Ability to solve problems
5. Level of adaptability
6. Thought and learning processes
You will get actionable results instantly. But, if you want more guidance, we can also provide expert analysis on our behavioral assessments.
Change is inevitable — and endless. As a leader, you must be able to recognize the need to pivot, develop a strategy to make the shift, and inspire your team to carry out the initiative. When you are successful, your employees will thrive, and your company will continue to prosper. Remember: We are here to help you succeed, so contact us today!
Whether you’re striving to succeed as a leader, a long-term individual contributor, or are just beginning your career, you want to succeed. Whether you’ve completed formal education at a university, technical school, or earned certifications, the truth remains formal education has its limits. Hard skills are essential, but they’re not all you need to succeed.
While education is one aspect employers look at, it’s not the only thing. In fact, the best employers take a holistic view of each applicant's strengths and challenge areas. They look for cultural fit, ease of training, and other elements that show this person will be a good fit in the job and company.
SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) published a survey in May 2020 titled “Leaders and Employees Need Soft Skills Now More than Ever”. In it, 97% of employers surveyed said that soft skills were either as important or more important than hard skills.
Schools often focus more on hard, measurable skills. Soft skills are difficult to measure, grade, and give certifications to prove exceptionalism. Certainly, you practice soft skills at school, but to be truly successful you need to hone them like you do hard skills.
Let’s discuss what soft skills are and why they matter in the workplace.
Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work. They include how you engage and interact with your colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work. We’ve covered specific soft skills before in one of our most popular blogs. Here’s another list of what employers value when it comes to soft skills. These include (but aren’t limited to) adaptability, communication, integrity, teamwork, and leadership.
Adaptability is defined as being able to rapidly learn new skills and behaviors in response to changing circumstances. In the world of work, things change constantly. You can’t be successful and valuable to your organization if you aren’t adaptable. Someone demonstrating adaptability in the workplace is flexible and can respond effectively to their working conditions — even if things don't go as planned. You’ve mastered this soft skill if you can see change on the horizon and be proactive in recommending how you get in front of it. On the contrary, if you’re someone who constantly digs in and resists change, you’re not only not helping, you could be part of the problem.
Employers look for applicants with superior written and verbal communication skills for almost every job. How many times have you said or written something to someone that they understood differently from your meaning? This happens all the time. The best employers need leaders on every level that can exercise care in their ability to listen and respond to customers and coworkers.
The soft skill of communication goes beyond effective verbal and writing skills. Communication breakdown is the root of almost all conflicts – and work team conflicts have a huge impact on workforce productivity. The most effective communicators are great listeners. They listen with the intent to understand. They also know how to adjust their style to match the preferred communication style of their listener. If you want to know more about your personal communication strengths, and where you may have some blind spots, the Omnia Professional Development report provides valuable insight.
Schools rely on a student’s integrity when it comes to independent work, honesty in test-taking, and creating authentic projects. But is it taught and developed? Sadly, no. Is it critical in today’s work environment? Absolutely. It’s the cornerstone of an organization’s brand and reputation and can make or break a company’s long-term viability.
Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral, ethical principles and values. At work, it means keeping your promises, generating trust with clients and colleagues, and taking pride in doing good work.
Hiring managers look for job candidates who can work well with others. Whether you will be doing a lot of team projects or simply attending a few departmental meetings, you need to be able to work effectively with the people around you even if you do not always agree them.
Some skills related to teamwork include the ability to negotiate with others, and to recognize and appreciate diversity in a team. Another related skill is accepting and applying feedback.
While not every job opening is a leadership role, most employers want to know that you have the ability to make decisions when push comes to shove and can manage situations and people. The ability to step up to the plate in a tricky situation and help resolve it is something employers look for in prospective employees. Other leadership skills include the ability to resolve problems and conflicts between people and to make executive decisions.
Hiring managers search for candidates with strong soft skills because they are important to everyone’s success in the workplace.
Let’s do a quick exercise. Think of the people you've been paired up within school or at work.
Person 1: Excellent technical skills; proficient in a specific job; doesn’t work well with others.
Person 2: Competent technical skills; adequate in a specific job; personable and friendly with colleagues and clients alike.
You probably have a few examples of each. Which person would you prefer to work with? In most cases, we’d all select Person 2. Certainly, there are instances when an expert is needed and it’s always nice to have access to them, but if you can’t communicate your needs to Person 1 how beneficial is that access?
We can take another example from the SHRM article “The Hard Facts About Soft Skills”.
“Imagine an organization where leaders approach questions and concerns and mistakes with empathy and understanding,” Kristina Johnson, chief people officer for Okta Inc., says. “Then consider a workplace that’s aggressive and blame-focused, where employees are afraid to make mistakes and too embarrassed to ask questions. As you can imagine, employees will stick around at one of those organizations much longer than the other.”
Hard skills versus soft skills aren’t a popularity contest, though it’s often easier to work with someone who has at least decent people skills. No one wants to make their work or life harder than necessary.
Bonus, soft skills are transferable skills that can be used regardless of the specific job. Adaptable employees are a valuable asset to any company as their goal is to grow and change, not stagnate. Understanding and improving upon your soft skills will make you a valuable asset and add to your success potential.
Suppose you aren't strong in all of these skills. That’s ok, it’s never too late to develop them. Understanding where you excel and where you can improve is helpful. If you find areas for improvement and have an interest in strengthening them, you are in a great position.
To find out which soft skills are most needed in an organization, look no further than your most successful colleagues. See if there are certain traits that allow them to prosper in your workplace.
For example, you can learn a lot by seeing other people within a company who excel in these five areas. Also, offering to take on more responsibilities at work (serving on committees, planning events, leading projects, etc.) can help you gain valuable experience. If possible, consider taking online soft-skills courses. Developing soft skills will make you a more valuable employee and boost your chances of career success.
Employee assessments can also reveal areas where improvements could be made, making it easier to put together a development plan to address those needs. If your organization isn’t already using assessments, it may be worth mentioning in conjunction with development and retention efforts. People often focus on technical skills or competencies when planning their development but neglecting soft skills can make it difficult to succeed in future positions that require a high degree of emotional intelligence and social interaction.
Have an article-specific question or want to continue the conversation? Now you can! Contact the author directly through the short form below and Keather Snyder will respond to your query. If you have a more general question please use our chat function, call 800.525.7117, or visit our contact us page and we'll have a subject matter expert answer your questions.
We couldn't help it; we had to have ONE listicle to end the year. What better week than between Christmas and New Year's? I'm sure many of us are wrapping up projects, finalizing details, and checking our to-do lists so frequently even Santa would be impressed. If you are lucky, you may be in that easy limbo of having work wrapped up, and you are taking a breath. Whatever your situation, we hope you’ll take a break with us and catch up on the topics that kept people coming back. Maybe you've visited these already, or perhaps they're new to you. Either way, these articles are worth your time and can help you gear up for the new year!
In the current times, you may have had to furlough or lay off employees. Now that you're able to hire again, you're considering a rehire. You find yourself weighing the pros and cons of bringing previous employees back to your team. Will this decision be a good move, or is it better to start again?
Join us as we uncover the pros and cons of rehiring and offer food for thought as you thumb through applications.
While it's unlikely you'll ever actually look forward to conducting a review, they're a necessary part of the job that, if done correctly, can drive high performance. Part of an effective onboarding process is providing honest, actionable feedback. Without feedback, employees don't know whether they're doing a good job or how they could do a better job. According to a recent survey, 32 percent of employees must wait more than three months to get feedback from their manager. However, 96 percent felt that regular feedback was helpful. We offer a painless way to do just that.
Suppose you work for an aggressive personality type. In that case, you probably need answers and solutions to help you get through the day. Why does your boss do what he does? Why is she so difficult? Is there an effective way to work with someone who can never be wrong? What if your aggressive manager is also hypersensitive to all criticism? We answer these questions and more in the article.
Soft skills were the MVP of the year. And we understand why! An employee's soft skills can make or break their job performance, especially in leadership positions. Technical or "hard" skills are undoubtedly essential. However, having good soft skills — characteristics like agreeableness, empathy, the ability to influence and listen, likeability, and the ability to resolve conflict — can impact far more than the individuals' daily tasks. Measuring soft skills will help determine whether an employee can enlist the necessary cooperation and buy-in from peers, direct reports, leadership, clients, and vendors. If your new hire will engage with anyone, it's good to know which skills are innate and which may need coaching.
You may be a computer whiz, a scientific genius, or a Master of Mathematical Theories. However, to be successful, you need more than just expertise in your given specialty. You might need to hone your soft skills. Soft skills are broadly classified as a combination of personality traits, behaviors, and social attitudes that allow people to communicate effectively, collaborate, and successfully manage conflict. People with good soft skills tend to have strong situational awareness and emotional intelligence to navigate challenging work environments while still producing positive results. This is especially important for leadership positions. Good leadership is about managing people and directing their efforts toward the desired outcome, more so than applying specific technical skills.
So, there you have it. 2020 was a year of questions and answers, challenges, and solutions. We all had adjustments to make. Some people started new jobs, some may soon return to previous ones, and still, others are deciding what’s next. Most of us were handling new and unusual stressors, and because we're human, we didn't always get it right. And if there was one thing that made a difference across the board, it was leadership's ability to leverage their soft skills.
Many unforeseen changes have occurred in the last 6-8 months, many that are here to stay. One adjustment is the move from a physical office environment to virtual teams. Even with some workplaces reopening, it's clear that virtual teams are here for the long term.
As leaders and employees continue adjusting to this evolving reality, there are ways to work more effectively and gain a momentum people can live with. We may not be in the same room for a while, but we can still stay together on the journey if we can find our footing.
In previous articles and webinars, we've discussed why leadership is essential in a crisis, what employees, clients, and stakeholders need from leaders, and how to use emotional traits and behavioral tendencies to your advantage. As we continue to manage through crises, other strategies, such as best practices for virtual mentoring, utilizing behavioral assessments, and motivating teams from a distance, will help you keep things contained and on track.
Effective leadership creates the infrastructure to help people participate efficiently. Leadership is about harnessing vision, balancing responsibilities, and creating a framework that clarifies how to reach set goals. Effective, and yes courageous, leadership is about creating processes that improve people's understanding of changing circumstances and enhance their ability to swim with the tide.
For over 35 years, Omnia’s vision centers on maximizing people-performance through the power of insight. We understand people power businesses, and through The Omnia Behavioral Assessment, we identify the strengths, challenges, and motivations of the people who make up your companies.
Right now, it's essential to identify who is comfortable with rapid change and who may need more steady guidance. No matter how technical you are, how long you've worked remotely, or how comfortable you are with change, you're now working with people who are new to things like remote work and virtual meeting platforms. We know that changing work routines to accommodate innovative technology and norms is challenging at the best of times. Leaders (of organizations, teams, and projects) have to get everyone rowing in the same direction.
"Now is the time, as you reimagine the post-pandemic organization, to pay careful attention to the effect of your choices on organizational norms and culture," Andrea Alexander, Aaron De Smet, and Mihir Mysore at McKinsey remind us.
Below we've captured some of what we've learned at The Omnia Group about how leaders can make a difference to the team's sustainable success through connection, priorities, and pace.
Leadership connection is about actual, direct time with people. Connecting with your team to understand them individually and as a group will enable you to better diffuse fears, anxiety, disengagement, and pessimism when it appears.
Through every crisis and work challenge, there will be change. For example, with the move to virtual teams, we no longer have the opportunity to walk by the water cooler and engage in spontaneous business conversations. As a result, leaders need to carve out time to attend meetings regularly with other managers, direct reports, and cross-functional teams.
What is regular? Is it every day, every week, once a month? Honestly, that's up to you and the people on the team. Some people will need more direct time with you; some people will need more time to quietly process independently. Those at Omnia who worked virtually before COVID hit say they are actually seeing many more of us now than they were before "everything went virtual."
Recently we shared a webinar about Courageous Leadership featuring Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914 - 1917). During this exploration, his ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the parties could reach land. Shackleton faced a life-or-death crisis. His leadership, connection to his team, and understanding of the human condition resulted in this crisis becoming known as "an epic feat of endurance."
Shackleton insisted on the men eating the evening meal together and socializing afterward. Those connection points can be team meetings, lunch-and-learns, sales huddles, or anything that makes sense in your culture in a virtual office.
There is absolutely nothing more important for any business in terms of effectiveness than working on the right things at the right time. Think about what's suspended, what's changed, and what's urgent.
Our teams review priorities every day. We also have rolling 90-day meetings to discuss shifts and changes to priorities. We identify which projects should continue but at a later date and make a plan to prioritize completing those projects at a time better suited to those needs.
A leader must be clear on what the priorities are for the business so that employees can do some of that filtration themselves. How can we make sure that people know if stuff has been paused, cleared out, and then clarify what's urgent? Be clear about the things that matter most right now, and then make sure everybody has priorities.
If there isn't work for people right now, how are we addressing it? What does that look like? Some organizations are focusing on developing people through cross-training; others are working on creating better internal processes. Still, others are using the time to document existing processes for when hiring resumes.
Pacing is the leaders' job. It's incredibly essential yet sometimes overlooked in conversations.
How fast do we go? What does that look like? Is everyone with us?
Back to Shackleton and his transcontinental march for a moment. He was in charge of a stranded 28-man team and challenged to keep them alive in the Antarctic for months. It was up to Shackleton to decide when the men would depart the relative safety of the sinking Endurance. It was up to him how long they'd huddle in makeshift camps as the ice they were on continued to drift. It was up to him to select and navigate a party in a single lifeboat on an 800-mile open-boat journey to then mount a rescue mission to save the men back at the makeshift camps, which he did, without loss of life!
What we're facing now may not be a doomed Antarctic exploration, but these are uncharted waters. It's up to leadership to determine our direction and our pace. The rest of the team (employees, clients, and stakeholders) are awaiting your call.
Being virtual can cause additional challenges. Paying attention to where people are is even more critical as there are fewer clues in the environment for people to watch and find out what pace they should work. If you're having difficulty identifying an individual's pace, The Omnia Behavioral Assessment can help. Understanding if you are working with an impatient doer or a methodical processer will help you set and manage priorities in a way that resonates with the employee.
Additionally, it's crucial to ask, "if people are behind, what's the reason for it?" Your structured, systematic employees may be feeling overwhelmed and need a more clearly delineated timeline with fixed milestones. Your fast-paced multitaskers may be trying to do too much at once and getting overextended. Each set of employees will need a different approach from you to stay on pace and meet deadlines. An Omnia assessment can provide that roadmap.
As the leader, it takes courage to roll with the punches, change course and keep everyone working towards company goals, but you can do it. Remember, stay connected, set and manage your priorities, and set a pace that keeps people energized and moving forward.
Have an article-specific question or want to continue the conversation? Now you can! Contact the author directly through the short form below and Tonya DeVane will respond to your query. If you have a more general question please use our chat function, call 800.525.7117, or visit our contact us page and we'll have a subject matter expert answer your questions.