What are soft skills and why are they important to your business?

Tuesday, 17th September 2019

Blog by pro-manchester Comms Manager, Mel Hill

One of the main focuses for businesses at the moment is soft skills. This buzzword is what led our Skills committee to discuss ‘Revaluing Soft Skills: Why they are critical to the success of your people and business’.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

We were kindly joined by Sam Grogan, Pro Vice Chancellor – University of Salford; Ian MacArthur, Head of Sectors – Business Growth Hub; Alison Loveday, Partner – Kennedys; Sandra Hill, Managing Director – The Hill Group; Laura McGowan, Group Head of People – MediaCom and Angela Prentner-Smith, Managing Consultant – This is Milk.

Sam Grogan opened our morning with a fascinating talk about disruption, and how quickly technology is disrupting our lives like never before.

“The new normal is the scale of change we now have,” said Sam. “We now have continued disruption instead of it being every decade or more.

“The current speed of adoption is both the fastest it’s ever been and the slowest it’s likely to be. It took the telephone 75 years to get to 50 million users. It took Pokemon Go just 9 days to reach this.”

So how will this affect us and why are soft skills so important?

In November 2017, McKinsey Global Institute released a statistic expecting between 400 million and 800 million jobs to be displaced in the next year.

“What does this mean for the needs of industry?” Asked Sam. “At Salford, we’re changing the way our students interact with disciplines. We have people in first year now that have learned and understood the world in an entirely different way.

“Through our industry collaboration zones, we are merging different skills which we wouldn’t have usually paired up. With the vast amount of information available to us, knowledge as an end point is now dead. The real skill is to critically evaluate the information you read.”

How can we improve our workplaces in this ever-changing world?

The Good Employment Charter, created together with GMCA and Business Growth Hub aims to help employers reach excellent employment standards and become more successful as a result.

The charter’s representatives have a solid vision for our region:

  • Good employment will create jobs which are secure, fairly paid and fulfilling with opportunities to progress and develop
  • The charter will create significant opportunities for Greater Manchester employers and residents from increasing diversity, promoting equality and spreading opportunity
  • It is a win-win for Greater Manchester’s employers, as those best at engaging and supporting their employees are the most successful

With introductions of charters such as this, businesses are being pro-active in a world where job roles are being replaced by technology. The main aim of this charter is to ensure the employee is thought of every step of the way and with constant consultation and evaluation of the soft skills that go into job roles.

Our panel, hosted by Partner at Kennedys and pro-manchester Skills Committee Chair, Alison Loveday continued the discussion.

MediaCom is a global media agency that helps people, brand and businesses to unlock their growth potential through media. Laura McGowan, their Group Head of People explained why their mission is “people first, better results.”

“Every individual has their own USP and that USP is their personality. You have to look at that from a diversity point of view because if everyone was the same, learned the same and communicated the same, life would be very boring.”

This is where soft skills come in. Soft skills are an important part of communication, and especially management.

Alison Loveday, Partner at Kennedys and former pro-manchester Chair said: “One thing I learnt throughout my career is that someone who is really good at their job doesn’t necessarily have the softer, more collaborative skills that management roles require.

“It’s become a habit for businesses to promote the person who is excellent at their job or promote their best sales person into a management role, but they aren’t always the caring and supportive people we want in management.”

Sandra Hill, Managing Director of international recruitment company, The Hill Group agreed with Alison’s point, reiterating the importance of soft skills in management. “The issue you have when you promote people who are great at the job they then manage, is that they won’t step back and let their employees do their roles.

“The main reason people leave their jobs is because of their manager, not because of the job role itself. Millennials now expect caring relationships with their bosses. It’s all well and good to have this as part of your company culture, but as a CEO or MD, if you don’t live and breathe this ethos, your team will never invest in it.”

Angela Prentner is Managing Director of This is Milk, a company aiming to help people to accelerate their teams with soft skills. Angela started the business because, working in the financial and professional services, she realised people were hugely lacking soft skills in the workplace.

“If you have good soft skills, such as curiosity and resilience and have the ability to connect ideas, we get better problem solvers,” said Angela. She continued: “The insult given to millennials, is that it is preposterous that they expect their manager to give them empathy and care. Why shouldn’t they expect that? We shout be more empathetic naturally I don’t think it’s an outrageous thing for people to expect – to be treated fairly in the workplace.”

An interesting discussion, we’re sure you’ll agree.

If you’d like to know more about what our Skills Committee is up to, keep an eye on what events we have coming up soon on our events page.