Sunday, 14 May 2017

Why #Soft #Skills Are Top of Employers Lists (And Why We should call them #Leadership Skills!)

I was very pleased to see that in a recent report cited by the World Economic Forum non cognitive skills are reported to be increasingly important to employers.

More specifically it is being said that 'non-cognitive skills are also integral to educational performance and success at work – and are becoming increasingly so. Non-cognitive skills are your “soft skills”: things like how well you can communicate, how well you work with others, how well you lead a team and how self-motivated you are.'

It goes on to say that While fewer than 20% of hiring managers said that recent graduates lacked the math skills needed for the work, more than half said that recent graduates lacked attention to detail. About equal shares of hiring managers saw deficiencies in writing proficiency and communication—the cognitive and non-cognitive aspects, respectively, of a single skill. About a third of hiring managers said recent college graduates lacked data analysis and teamwork skills,” 

This is a US based report, but in my experience, it could be easily extended to the UK and possibly Europe, if not the rest of the world! For years and years all we have focussed education on has been academics and they are important, indeed essential! BUT - and it is a big BUT - as the world becomes more complex, as the pattern of change increases, as diversity enriches our workplace, so called soft skills are coming into their own and those who are able to display them end up in a much better position...not only do they get ahead in employment, they actually stay EMPLOYABLE. And this is a much more important area in a society where 'secure jobs' and 'jobs for life' are a distant memory.   

Actually, in my opinion, 'soft' or 'non-cognitive skills' is not the appropriate terminology. Communication, Self Motivation, Team Working and the likes should really be identified as Leadership Skills.  Ultimately, what makes leaders if not their capacity to engage others through their vision and be a role model to the people surrounding them? And are these attributes not derived by great communication skills, team work, self awareness and motivation?

The point is this: Leadership is necessary at all levels in the workplace. Leadership skills are seldom dictated by technical knowledge alone. More likely technical knowledge provides the stepping stone for self-confidence,  but this alone does not make one a leader. A true leader - at whatever the level in an organisation or community - will add to this communication, empathy, listening and more broadly coaching skills, setting and pursuing objectives, to mention but a handful.

Thus, it is absolutely critical to add so-called soft skills to any education and it is never too early too start. Some people are getting the message loud and clear , which is why I am now being asked to deliver workshops around these topics not only to undergraduates but actually to 15-17 year old students...those schools / organisations are the trailblazers but we need others to follow to ensure that society can truly create 21st century ready professionals.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 


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