Soft skills 'essential for business performance'

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Strong business relationships are borne out of effective soft skills

Finding employees with the right skills to help your business go from strength to strength can be hard enough, but now it is not just the essential expertise that workers need to carry out their daily responsibilities that is in hot demand, but those with outstanding soft skills as well.

Often underrated, soft skills are those interpersonal skills that not only make a person easy to work with, but also help to set these excellent orators and relationship developers apart from their peers.

Chief executive officer of alldayPA Reuben Singh told smallbusiness.co.uk that far from being the poor relation to technical expertise, soft skills could now be the most important aspect that employers should look for when recruiting for top talent.

Mr Singh argued: "We are seeing the first generation that has grown up with automation entering the workplace.

"They shop online, talk to friends through social media and even play online games in their leisure time and crucially, as a result, have less experience of verbal communication, and are instead becoming overly reliant on digital communications."

It is perhaps unsurprising then that essential skills like being able communicate effectively with both one's colleagues and clients is a skill that many members of staff are now having to hone on the job.

According to a survey of 1,000 applicants for corporate positions over the last 12 months carried out by alldayPA, only around one in five demonstrated the necessary proficiencies in verbal communication, effective listening and empathy that set the top candidates apart from the rest.

What is it then that can be done to bolster the number of staff that have good soft skills at their disposal and what are the implications of a failure to do this?

For a start, a lack of communication skills can easily lead to a breakdown in working relationships between individuals and departments - not a situation that any business wants to see take place. Meanwhile, an inability to effectively deal with customers is a recipe for disaster for all businesses, as in many cases a badly handled encounter with a client can result in lost revenues.

As a result, encouraging members of staff to engage more with their co-workers and to understand the stresses that others may be under that drives the way they behave lies at the heart of stronger business relationships.

It is this empathy for others that creates an understanding that, while issues that affect you might be the most pressing in your mind, other people may have different priorities. Therefore, working together to reach a solution that is fair and reasonable for all will often be the most prudent approach.

Also, being able to look at a situation from a consumer's point of view will enable customer service staff to find better resolutions to any problems that might arise. It is this ability to see both sides of an argument and to act accordingly that really plays the greatest part in ensuring favourable outcomes for all.

"More value needs to be placed on these softer skills, both in education and in business," Mr Singh concluded. "Failure to do so will see a continued decline in levels of customer satisfaction and worsening customer service."

Developing soft skills should therefore be at the heart of business plans for all firms keen to get the most out of their staff.

Ensuring individual workers are able to understand each other's difficulties and to see things from one another's perspectives can also lead to a more harmonious workplace and increased productivity - both results that can really help to take a company to the next level.