Alistair Cox, CEO of recruitment
firm Hays, says that 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.
“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,” he says.
Cox says soft skills, also known as emotional intelligence, are often undervalued by organisations yet businesses which possess and value these skills often perform better.
“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,” Cox says.
He says it’s crucial that senior leaders 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,” Cox says.
HR professionals can champion these skills in their workplace by helping build a culture that places value on emotional intelligence, including reflecting this in staff performance reviews.
“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,” Cox says.
This can be done in many ways, such as recognising an individual team member’s contribution or providing positive feedback on an idea your employee raises.
“Making sure the performance review process is encouraging and capturing soft skills will also demonstrate that the business’ intentions in this area are genuine,” he says.
There are four ways business leaders can ensure they are promoting the value of soft skills within their organisation, according to Hays:
• Prioritise visibility
Making sure management is accessible within the workplace promotes better team working. Replacing email communications with face-to-face interactions on occasion can help a business to achieve this and also demonstrates the importance of interpersonal skills.
• Encourage an open culture
It is important that any business has an environment where employees can confidently share ideas and thoughts. Empowering a workforce through the encouragement of senior leaders to discuss projects will breed creativity.
• 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.
• 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 were this can be improved
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If your organisation wants to get that competitive edge, then business leaders need to place more focus on the importance of soft skills when recruiting new staff.