When recruiting employees as a business owner or applying for job vacancies as a hopeful candidate, qualifications, industry knowledge and hands-on experience are most probably at the forefront of your mind. However new research has provoked economist experts to urge small business owners to pay more attention to soft skills and personality traits when growing their internal workforce. How you communicate and your individual disposition is becoming equally important as tangible accolades, it seems.
What exactly are ‘soft skills’?
Soft skills are what is also known as ‘emotional intelligence’ and describe specific unique attributes linked to things like social graces, personality traits, interpersonal skills and communicative approach. Basically, what soft skills you do or don’t possess are a pretty clear indicator of what kind of person you are and subsequently, what type of employee you would be. Soft skills are also strongly indicative of a person’s abilities when it comes to leadership and management so it comes as no surprise that business owners are now being urged to pay more attention to them.
Desirable characteristics such as a positive attitude, strong negotiation skills and good empathy also come under the umbrella of the emotional literacy that is particularly essential when it comes to public and customer-facing job roles. Business is all about negotiation, communication and cultivating a solid network of contacts and is especially relevant for those micro-businesses and start-ups looking to grow, expand and make a mark on the industry.
The growing soft skills gap
How employees communicate amongst themselves and with their clients has a huge impact on the overall efficiency and success of a business and soft skills are instrumental in fine tuning this. However, recent research issued by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that three quarters of employers agree that there is a definite soft skills gap in today’s workforce.
In fact experts are predicting that by 2020, more than half a million workers will be seriously inhibited by this lack of emotional intelligence, which is a definite cause for concern. Soft skills aren’t quantifiable like tangible hard skills such as software knowledge, qualifications and specific industry skills. Emotional intelligence can’t really be taught but it is equally as important so small businesses are now being urged to increase their focus on soft skills after spending too long investing too much time and energy into only tangible benefits.
The CBI and FSB have recently joined forces to address the skills gap but it’s down to business owners themselves to step up their game in reviewing and improving their individual approach. We like to offer our expert advice and guidance wherever we can to growing business ventures so we’re here to help you better the soft skills offering of both yourself and your employees.
Boosting your business’ soft skillset
Embody your company values – Taking advantage of soft skills is often all about bringing your company values to life. This means you should revisit the ethos and values that make up the backbone of your brand to reacquaint yourself with what your business is all about and what it has to offer in a highly competitive marketplace. Doing this will enable you to make sure that you and anybody you employ can embody these values and project the right brand image to existing and prospective customers.
Be selective about who you employ – When it comes to small business, it’s all the more essential that you dedicate a sufficient amount of time and energy to recruiting the right members of staff. You will be working extremely closely together to grow your micro-brand so you need to be sure in the knowledge that the team will be able to communicate and work harmoniously together.
You also need to ensure that the people you are employing have the soft skills that your customers will best engage with and respond to. Don’t just settle for the first person who comes along with a glowing CV and impressive qualifications. Hold multiple interviews, trial days and probationary periods to make sure you’re making the right choice. Bad recruitment decisions are far more damaging for a small start-up than for a large, established company.
Set a good example to work by – When you are working as part of an intimate team day in, day out, you can’t help but pick up on the habits of others so it’s essential that as the business owner, you are practising good soft skills. A positive attitude, eye contact, active listening, appropriate body language and effective networking are just few attributes that you should be promoting to your colleagues in a bid to improve their own soft skillset.