Not so long ago, good time management or an outgoing personality might have been mentioned in a covering letter, or at the end of a job candidate’s interview.
But today, these “soft” skills are in high demand; they're improving business performance and helping organisations to get results in an increasingly complex world.
Soft skills refer to interpersonal qualities, such as teamwork, critical thinking or mindfulness, and were ranked second only to IT skills as the most sought after by British businesses in 2021.
Why the rise in demand for soft skills?
Digital transformation has led us to embrace the technologies that support new ways of working. As the last few years have proven, change can happen quickly and without warning.
We’re seeing fresh demand for people who can stay calm, resilient and focused, enabling organisations to identify opportunity within the economic recovery.
EY Director, Mark Wheatly explains: “When a leader is under a high level of pressure, they can become ‘rigid’ in their reactions…[it] can be problematic when those habitual responses are no longer appropriate for the situation.
“Adaptability is an increasingly important and valuable skill for leaders to develop,” Wheatly says.
The shift away from silo culture means tech specialists have to fluently convey complex ideas in simple terms to professionals around them – a trend visible in a recent Censuswide poll which cites “verbal communication” among the skills that bosses need to improve.
Senior policy adviser at the CIPD, Claire McCartney also underlines how managers need support “to develop a range of skills, particularly with regards to communication” so that they can help teams to the full.
- Future-proof relationships
Hybrid is defining the post-pandemic business landscape. Instead of conversing in the traditional office space, staff now share ideas and build relationships across geographies and time zones, as online collaboration dovetails with “real life”.
These links depend on our social and emotional skills, call for which will grow by 26% in the US, and by 22% in Europe by the end of the decade (Mckinsey).
“Taking on greater responsibilities and pressure can rewire our brains” and “force us to stop caring about other people as much as we used to.”
The findings from a Harvard Business Review study remind individuals in charge to stay aware of their behaviours, actively empathise, and create environments that nourish those working within them.
This trend plays out across industries, with McKinsey’s 2021 global skills survey reporting a doubling in the number of firms “addressing interpersonal and empathy skills”.
“Caring about how your teammates and customers feel, and sensing their unspoken feelings is a true skill that I believe increases productivity and revenue,” says Forbes Councils Member, Yolanda Lau.
Material impact on performance
Lau’s words bring us to the edge of the issue, as soft skills “fundamentally affect the bottom line”, Lizzie Crowley, senior skills advisor at CIPD confirms.
“If you don't have them in your organisation, it’s very difficult to introduce new product, new process improvements…If you get them right it pays dividends,” she adds, resonating with a Deloitte study of the Australian workforce, which concludes that businesses taking on more workers with soft skills are set to boost revenues by over $90,000 by 2030.
Conversely, getting it wrong can be costly, as suggested by 89% of firms polled by LinkedIn that say “when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lacked the critical skills.”
The good news is that companies can take control here: through offering training in soft skills, firms can invest in their own success, while standing out to job seekers who are passionate for progress.
By taking care of current and prospective employees in this way, executives can create a well-rounded team that’s equipped to respond effectively to challenges, whatever the future brings.
At HR Spectrum, we know that through collaboration with individuals and companies who you know and trust, you can achieve smoother, more effective workflows and lasting success.
To find out more about the fantastic opportunities available through HR Spectrum, contact us today.