5 Reasons HR Managers Shouldn't Ignore the Soft Skills Gap


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

There’s a fundamental inconsistency between the capabilities employers seek and those that job candidates possess - that’s what we call the skills gap.

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5 Reasons HR Managers Shouldn't Ignore the Soft Skills Gap
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The large majority (87%) of businesses across the world are aware that a skills gap exists within their business. According to our State of Learning & Development in 2022 report, 69% of them are seeking ways to close it.

It’s often said that hard skills are what will secure you the job, but soft skills are what will help you keep it. However, most organizations recognize that soft skills are equally important as technical skills to the modern workforce.

As technology advances, employers are increasing their focus on essential soft skills that can’t be automated, including communication, leadership, creativity and critical thinking.

Here are five reasons why HR managers shouldn’t ignore the soft skills gap at any cost.

1. Improving soft skills and emotional intelligence is one of the biggest L&D challenges

According to IFP research, improving soft skills and emotional intelligence is the second biggest challenge for L&D teams behind the digital skills gap. Sure, the ability to code something in Javascript might land someone the job, but what will they need to do to keep it?

In a world that’s becoming increasingly reliant on technology, soft skills such as communication abilities, creativity and critical thinking play a vital role in any organization’s success.

It’s particularly important to focus on those in management positions. If they can’t communicate effectively or don’t possess emotional intelligence, it can impact the performance of their entire team.

2. The soft skills gap leads to a less productive workforce…

Six out of ten businesses found that skills gaps lead to a loss in productivity. If workers don’t possess skills such as creativity, critical thinking and time management - soft skills - they’re likely to be less productive at work.

These skills are essential for empowering employees to deal with tasks and challenges at work with expertise. Furthermore, without effective communication and problem-solving in the workplace, particularly among leadership, an organization’s performance will suffer.

3. … and a loss of revenue

The average company spends a whopping $800,000 each year searching for qualified candidates.

The widening soft skills gap is only going to drive this cost higher, as employers have to sift through countless unqualified candidates before beginning the hiring process.

The high turnover rate that many companies currently experience is often a result of employees ticking all the boxes on paper, but not exhibiting critical soft skills once they’ve started.

Implementing skills audit strategies and methods of improving internal training allows L&D teams to tackle the problem by identifying missing skills and targeting corrections.

4. More than half of businesses say there’s reduced staff morale due to the skills gap

It’s no surprise that employing people who lack vital interpersonal skills has an impact on the rest of the team, with 54% of businesses agreeing that staff morale suffers as a result of the skills gap.

According to Statista, 74% of employees in the US “feel a sense of wellbeing” from their workplace. By hiring people who possess desirable soft skills, businesses can ensure they’re doing their best to support their employee wellbeing efforts.

Skills such as communication abilities, emotional intelligence and empathy are key to creating a positive and welcoming workplace culture.

In turn, this will reduce stress, mitigate workplace friction and improve the overall mental and emotional health of employees - and a happy workforce is a more productive one.

5. 75% of employers can’t find graduates with essential soft skills

According to research by SHRM, students aren’t learning soft skills at college before entering the workforce. As a result, 75% of employers are unable to find graduates who possess essential abilities such as effective communication and leadership skills.

It’s important to ensure candidates can demonstrate their soft skills as well as the hard skills they need to fulfill the role. This ensures you're hiring people who are up to the job and are more likely to assimilate into the wider workforce.

Tackle the skills gap head-on

There are many ways businesses all over the world are dealing with the skills gap. Almost 70% said they wanted to adopt continuous learning to overcome the issue, whereas 57% agreed that they would create internship programs to foster talent.

Learn more: Solving the Global Skills Crisis: Here's How to Bridge the Talent Gap

Additionally, 53% said they plan to deploy reskilling initiatives and 50% said they would leverage data analytics to help them stay ahead of the curve when it comes to future skill requirements.

Soft skills training is crucial to the modern workforce. Employers must consider how they can refine their L&D strategies to be engaging for employees, ensuring that the skills they learn stick. Moreover, companies must ensure optimal use of resources and the prioritization of essential skills for the benefit of the organization.

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