The truth is, nobody can predict the future of business. With digital innovation constantly altering the way we work, it is impossible to know which jobs and which investments will still be working for us tomorrow. Among all this uncertainty, one factor has stood the test of time: the need for a skilled workforce but to combat the change, organisations must change the way we train our employees as well. Businesses must shift focus away from technical skills which, when not paired with a strong set of soft skills, are becoming decreasingly in demand. The organisations of the future must instead invest in their employees and company alike by providing training and development opportunities that will allow their staff to hone the skills of the future: soft skills.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are the interpersonal skills, personality skills, and communication abilities that everyone possesses to varying degrees. They make us who we are, generally encompassing our attitudes, habits and how we interact with other people. Soft skills refer to the abilities that make people better employees and are essential to the long-term success of an organisation. For too long soft skills have been looked over in place of hard or technical skills but many companies are beginning to recognise the growing need for these important skills and are investing in their employees’ development in these areas to secure both current and future business success.
Let’s look at 6 reasons to invest in developing these essential future-proof skills.
Soft skills increase productivity
Productivity in the workplace is impacted by much more than employees’ technical skills. Strong soft skills in areas such as communication, collaboration, time-management, and multi-tasking have a direct and immense impact on an employee’s productivity levels. When it comes to targets, goals, milestones, and deadlines strong soft skills foster a clear line of communication surrounding expectations, deadlines and goals between employees and management, as well as between a business and its clients. This causes misunderstandings and mistakes to reduce and productivity rates to soar.
Soft skills improve creativity and encourage innovation
Innovation and creation are and have always been the key to the successful future of a business. The World Economic Forum predicts that creativity will go from being the tenth most important job skill in 2015 to the third most important job skill by 2020 (1). Soft skills such as creative thinking, imagination, and organisation foster creativity and encourage new and innovative ideas. Businesses will benefit from encouraging inspiration and innovation by providing employees the opportunity to develop their soft skills to grow within or outside of their roles.
Soft skills encourage teamwork and increase efficiency
The Harvard Business Review found that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more over the last two decades meaning investing in skills such as teamwork and communication is more important now than ever before (2). Employees who have developed their soft skills communicate effectively and work efficiently both individually and as team members meaning processes tend to be quicker and more efficient. Soft skills savvy workers also tend to decrease conflict quickly and effectively by applying creative problem-solving skills to workplace issues.
Soft skills improve retention by offering development opportunities
A company that puts the growth of its employees at the heart of its culture by investing in development offerings encourages top talent to remain within that company for longer. Linkedin’s 2018 Workplace Learning report suggests that 94% of employees would prolong their stay in an organisation that invests in their career development (3). Soft skills learning opportunities inspire proactive, lifelong learning in employees and increases the likelihood they will choose to grow within the company that is investing in their development.
Soft skills attract the best new talent and boost company reputation
Unsurprisingly, in the same way that offering soft skills development to current employees encourages them to remain with a company, not making learning and development tools available to everyone within the organisation has the opposite effect. 83% of employees would choose a new employer over their current one if it offered more training and development (4). Mentioning a personal development offering in a job posting is more likely to not only attract more applicants to the posting but also increases the potential that those candidates are interested in their own proactive skills development and growth within the company.
Soft skills prepare new and future managers
Whether a company is preparing an employee to be promoted internally or hiring someone externally, the transition to management poses new challenges, new responsibilities, new relationships and, most importantly new skills. When it comes to developing the soft skills that are crucial for success in a leadership role, new managers are some of the most neglected individuals in business (5).
Lack of soft skills training means many managers are not set up for success in their roles with 60% of new managers underperforming in their first two years on the job (6). Investing in soft skills training of new and future managers is not just crucial to the success of these leaders but of their teams and the organisation as a whole.
Providing the individuals who will shape the success of a business with access to the tools and opportunities that will aid them to develop and grow both within and outside of their roles with soft skills training is a surefire way to ensure a company will keep up with the ever-changing, ever-demanding future of work. Although they may be working alongside robots whose abilities we can’t yet fathom, the growth of the skills of the people at the heart of a business will always be a worthwhile investment.