How soft skills will increase your business success

Soft skills are the main reason that Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook has risen as high as she has, whilst overtaking her Harvard contemporaries. “She was so good at working with people, you couldn’t help but like her” explained Lant Pritchett her first employer. Today soft skills are said to be worth over 88 billion in gross value to the UK economy each year according to recent soft skills research funded by MacDonald’s. The annual contribution of soft skills is expected to grow steadily over the next five years, to reaching £109 billion by the year 2025. However it is thought that the current soft skills gaps in UK businesses will result in diminished productivity, competitiveness and profitability, if left as they are.

Development Economics reported that:

The annual overall expected loss of production due to expected soft skills deficits is anticipated to amount to just under £8.4 billion per year by 2020…If the current weaknesses in the UK’s soft skills base are not addressed, we face an economic penalty that will impact on sectors, businesses, individuals and society as a whole.”

But what are these elusively termed ‘soft skills’?

“Communication and interpersonal skills along with teamwork, time and self-management, decision making, initiative taking and taking responsibility.”

Soft skills are the traits that characterise the relationships with others, including what underpins effective leadership and management. The skills can link closely with an employee’s approach to life and work, having often been associated with Emotional Intelligence Quotient. Other terms that have been bandied about are “people skills” interpersonal skills” and “social skills”. Hard Skills by contrast are skills that are the minimum professional or technical skills required to be able to operate in a particular workplace.

Soft skills have been often undervalued, with much less training being provided than with hard skills, but the tide is now turning with many companies realising the importance and the increasing dangers of ignoring their soft skills gap. This is partially due to the revelation that soft skills such as communication skills, presentation skills and conflict resolution are the foundations needed to underpin successful leadership, management and customer service development.

So how do we tackle this? Firstly we need to address the current stigma and preconceived ideas about “soft skills” Secondly take action to promote the desired skill set and thirdly invest in training and coaching by nurturing our workforce to enable them to develop a high level of these invaluable skills. Many business and organisations are now championing soft skills and are aiming to change people’s perceptions including, but not limited to: CIPD, Tesco, CBI, Aon, MacDonald’s, Learn Direct, FSB and The Work Foundation, to name but a few. There is nothing ‘soft’ about soft skills when it gains you results.

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