Soft skills beat software: Why humans will be the future of tech
It powers the homes we live in; it gets us to and from the office; it allows you to read this article. It’s technology and it’s everywhere. Next to no other sector can compete with the booming growth the world has seen of the tech industry. This development didn’t come from nowhere, however. It has been powered by the hard-working and creative innovators that continue to pursue new heights and break new borders. These individuals have always been at the heart of the industry but have recently begun to be recognised as more than coding machines and data analysers but as the people that through their drive, imagination and emotional intelligence will secure the future of technology. The tech industry is beginning to realise the value and necessity of soft skills and human interaction, not just internally but externally and is continuing to put people more at the core of everything they do, and it’s about time.
People with purpose at the heart of tech companies’ performance
Because of the tech industry’s endless pursuit of innovation and modernisation, the hard-working individuals behind the screens can feel like just another cog in the machine, moving forward but with no real purpose or direction (1).
The truth is, without a well-communicated purpose, both a company and its employees can lose sight of the ‘why’ that drives value in business and gives a company direction.
Only a few years ago, now tech-giant, Microsoft was beginning to be written off as irrelevant compared to its competitors such as Apple and Google. Then Satya Nadella took over as CEO and introduced a new, more people-focused, sense of purpose to the business: ‘To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more’.
This new purpose gave Microsoft and its employees a new sense of direction with its clear message that empowering people to succeed was at the heart of the business. Purpose has a profound effect on the company causing its stock to rise nearly 200 percent since its introduction and Microsoft is not alone (2).
A recent study from Korn Ferry showed that companies with teams focused on their organisation’s purpose had annual growth rates nearly three times the annual rate for their entire industry. According to the survey, 90 percent of people who worked in a purpose-driven organisation reported feeling engaged in their work (3).
Humans are vital to tech interactions
2019’s festival of technology, film, interactive media, music and marketing, South by Southwest, saw a shift in focus towards the soft skills that will ‘humanise’ the tech industry. Using design thinking, big tech is continuing to evolve towards recognising the value of having humans at the core of everything they do and using it to resonate with users and consumers (4).
The design thinking approach is putting the human factor back into tech design in a big way. Design thinking involves real people in nearly every step of the design process, from analysing the way they are likely to consume a service to using a hands-on approach to testing and prototyping to ensure that the product is highly usable. Design thinking creates many benefits such as increases in sales, competitiveness, and innovation putting these people-centric designers in high demand for tech companies (5). Not only do tech designers require technical knowledge but must also be well-versed in the soft skills that help them to relate to the people for whom they are designing such as empathy, communication, emotional intelligence, and active listening.
The design process is not the only area of business that is moving towards a people-centric focus. Human interaction remains integral to both sales and customer service. According to a study by Google (6), 60 percent of consumers still prefer to speak to a person when they reach the purchase phase of a buying cycle. While a study by learning and outsource company CGS found that nearly 50 percent of consumers would prefer to communicate a question or concern over a conversation with a real person over a company’s chatbot (7). Throughout every step of a business, trust is between clients and a brand is built through relationships, communication and human connection with employees with strong interpersonal skills.
Soft skills are the tech skills of the future
According to the World Economic Forum, the rising demand for soft skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, and imagination will make soft skills 40 percent more crucial to the success of the industry by 2020 (8). Yet, hiring managers and recruiters report a growing soft skills gap in IT with 60 percent of employers at tech companies concerned that their organisation lacks soft skills (9). The technical skills such as coding, programming and big data analysis behind the incredible developments in the tech industry have helped the world reach new heights. But the industry has reached a turning point and it is heading back towards a more human-centric direction. To make this necessary switch, those in charge of tech organisations will need to empower, develop and attract individuals with the strong interpersonal skills that will aid the industry to a successful future.
The tech industry is beginning to appreciate the importance of a purpose-driven, people-centric business model to design, sales and brand loyalty. This rising trend of moving away from the idea of a tech utopia towards an industry with people and the development of the very skills that make us human at the heart of tech will secure a successful future for the industry. Investing in the people behind the screens and giving them a purpose and direction is investing in the future of the industry and a new era of tech.