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Derek Bishop

Director

Boosting soft skills

Date added: 18th Mar 2015
Category: Employee Engagement

With soft skills contributing £88 billion to the UK economy, there are plenty of reasons for employers to raise the profile of soft skills, both within their current workforce and when seeking to take on new staff.

What’s your pet hate when you are reviewing CVs?  There always seems to be something which stands out when perusing applications; perhaps a stock phrase which tells you that the applicant has attended a certain CV writing course and has then not taken the trouble to personalise their application, or perhaps a glaring grammatical error which the candidate really should have spotted had they taken the trouble to review their application.

One phrase which seems to come up time after time is ‘I work well as a team.’  A team member, yes; a team player, fine; but simply by missing out that additional word the candidate has let themselves down.  It’s particularly galling because team working is something which employers are increasingly valuing, along with soft skills such as listening, empathy and communication.

For decades candidates were assessed on qualifications first, past experience second and everything else came in as an ‘also-ran’.  Now all of that is turning around as employers start to realise that whilst hard skills can be taught, it is cultural fit and soft skills which are likely to make the difference between a valued employee and someone who just turns up for the pay.

Born out of a move away from ‘profit at any cost’, today’s businesses are increasingly looking towards innovation and ethical stewardship as the drivers of success.  And with innovation comes the need for collaboration, for agile thinking, for a greater understanding of customer needs allied to a drive towards customer excellence; all of which demand soft skills.  It’s not surprising therefore that a group of business leaders have got together to drive up awareness of the value of soft skills to the economy.

Led by organisations such as Barclays and McDonalds, the ‘Backing Soft Skills’ campaign targets the government, businesses and educational establishments in a bid to raise the profile of soft skills.  At the launch of the campaign in January 2015, James Caan, perhaps best known for his appearance on Dragon’s Den, highlighted the importance of teamwork, telling The Daily Mail that “in my own organisation, every function we have is based around team structures.” Along with teamwork the campaign is highlighting the importance of:

  • communication and interpersonal skills,
  • time and self-management skills,
  • decision making
  • taking responsibility

That the skills gap needs addressing is indisputable.  97% of UK employers believe that soft skills are important to business success and yet 54% of candidates have never included these skills on their CVs.  But with soft skills contributing £88 billion to the UK economy, there are plenty of reasons for employers to raise the profile of soft skills, both within their current workforce and when seeking to take on new staff.

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