Hard facts about ‘soft skills’ training
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Hard facts about ‘soft skills’ training

A lot of training in the workplace revolves around improving employees’ technical skills and competencies directly related to their jobs. That’s normal and desirable.

But if you’re in charge of training/learning, and you leave it at that, you’re missing the boat.

This is the conclusion suggested by a report from Deloitte Access Economics, which predicts that so-called “soft skills” will become ever more important in the next decade. (Deloitte Access Economics is based in Australia, and the report looked at the state of that country’s workforce, but conditions in other developed countries are similar.)

Deloitte defines soft skills as things like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, self-management, critical thinking, emotional judgment and professional ethics.

Rapid growth

Here are some of the most eye-catching points made in the Deloitte report:

  • Jobs where soft skills are critically important — such as managers, administrators, professionals, engineers, community service workers and salespeople — will grow 2.5 times as fast as other kinds of jobs
  • By 2030, soft-skills-intensive jobs will account for 63% of all jobs in the economy, up from 53% at the turn of the century
  • Higher levels of emotional judgment — one of the top soft skills — contribute to keeping employee turnover low
  • Quality of communication, another important soft skill, plays a big role in team effectiveness
  • Improving employees’ soft skills has been shown to boost annual revenue

Skills gaps

And yet, according to a survey cited in the Deloitte report, only 26% of employees self-reported as possessing significant communication skills. For other soft skills, the figures were even lower — 23% for teamwork, 12% for self-management, 6% for critical thinking and 4% for problem-solving.

All of this data points in one direction: Employers will have to prioritize the development of soft skills among their people if they want to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s economy.

Which suggests a series of questions: Do you have a process for assessing soft skills during recruitment? Do you have a handle on the soft skills competencies of your existing employees? Do you have a plan to improve them? If so, are you executing it?

Food for thought…

This blog post is adapted from the report “Soft Skills for Business Success,” May 2017.

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