How Can Business Leaders Promote Soft Skill Development Within an Organisation?

April 1, 20168:31 am1314 views

Why do we call soft skills ‘soft’? In the world of work, where we need more than technical skills to succeed, employers and business leaders need to focus on the importance of soft skills when they recruit, says Hays CEO, Alistair Cox, in his latest LinkedIn Influencer blog.

According to Alistair, the best technical skills and qualifications in the world can be taught, but they will have little impact unless business managers understand what motivates their employees, can communicate with their team effectively and listen.

Soft skills, or what some call Emotional Intelligence (EQ), are often undervalued by organisations, however ensuring a business has these skills while promoting their value can help it to perform. Alistair says, “Strong soft skills enable a leader to better understand, motivate and direct people, and as a result their teams are often more focused, productive and happier.”

There are four ways business leaders can ensure they are promoting the value of soft skills within their organization:

  • Prioritise visibility 

Making sure management is accessible within the workplace promotes better team working. Replacing email communications with face-to-face interactions on occasions can help a business to achieve this and also demonstrates the importance of interpersonal skills.

Alistair says, “As a business leader, you should set an example and actively demonstrate that interpersonal skills carry as much currency within your organisation as technical knowledge.”

See: Closing the Skills Gap is Critical to Workforce Readiness in ASEAN Member States

  • Encourage an open culture

It is important that businesses create an environment where employees can confidently share ideas and thoughts. Empowering a workforce through encouragement of senior leaders to discuss projects will breed creativity.

Alistair adds, “It’s important to build a culture in which all employees, no matter their experience, seniority or job title, feel confident to put forward ideas. You need to encourage yourself and others to think about what prevents someone speaking up in a meeting or putting forward an idea.”

  • Listen properly

Technology means that we are almost always contactable. While this has its obvious benefits, it can also be difficult to switch off and concentrate on the conversation at hand. Allowing yourself to discuss an issue with a colleague without distractions is extremely important, so much so that failing to do so can send the wrong message.

“Proper listening is hard and requires undivided attention if you are to make any impact. If you don’t have the time right now to do a proper job, be honest and tell your colleague and rearrange a more appropriate time,” Alistair states.

  • Lead authentically 

High EQ leaders will show self-awareness, resilience and can create connections with those around them. This isn’t something that can be forced; it’s difficult to fake being empathetic or genuine. However, there are still areas where this can be improved.

Alistair says, “Small things like recognising an individual team member’s contribution or providing positive feedback on an idea can have a huge impact. Making sure the performance review process is encouraging and capturing soft skills will also demonstrate that the business’ intentions in this area are genuine.”

According to Alistair, while the latest technology, sector experts and innovative products are all crucial to business, “it’s a team supplemented with rich soft skills that gives business a competitive edge.”

He further concludes, “More senior leaders need to understand that these important skills aren’t just a nice-to-have in an employee, they are crucial to the success of both the individual and the business. So please do not dismiss these important skills as ‘soft’ and somehow optional. Make sure you view them with the same importance as technical skills, both in your new hires and in your existing employees.”

Also read: Employers in Asia Should Redefine Talent to Bridge the Skills Gap

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