Here’s Why ‘Soft’ Skills Are Important in the Modern Workplace

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Communication, leadership and resilience continue to be the missing ingredient employees need to thrive in the workplace. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award offers an answer, as CEO Peter Westgarth, discusses the importance of soft skills in today’s work era.

With the New Year now in full swing and resolutions waining, it’s a great time to be resolving to help improve your workplace environment by motivating, rewarding and supporting younger employees.

The recent CBI/ Pearson Education and Skills Survey revealed that a third of UK businesses are dissatisfied with young people’s attitudes, self-management and resilience. As most HR directors will confirm, finding a candidate with the right skills set for the job at hand can be difficult. While technical skills may get young graduates or school leavers a foot in the door, it is often the soft skills, that enable them to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, that are the key to a successful career and good workplace culture.

Results from a survey commissioned last year by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) show that when it comes to employing young people, the evidence of soft skills overwhelmingly affects hiring decisions. Transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, resilience and leadership are considered equally or more important than academic achievements by a staggering 95% of senior decision makers, with 9 in 10 of them stressing that young people with strong soft skills often progress faster in the workplace.

The ability to effectively communicate with others, work as a team to resolve problems and provide solutions are vital to a productive, collaborative and healthy work environment: vital attributes of any organisation that aims to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

The proof is in real experience.

Recognising the many benefits that wider personal development of the workforce brings to the business, a number of UK companies integrate DofE programmes into their apprenticeships to complement technical training. Through ‘DofE Business’ companies such as Amey, British Gas, DFS and Heathrow are giving young people the opportunity to develop their confidence. The results shine through as young people in customer facing roles learn how to be adaptable, enabling them to adapt to different situations they come across day to day in their work.

After running the programme for over a decade, British Gas, the first UK company to introduce the DofE into its apprenticeship engineering training programme in 2006, has seen the tangible benefits it brings to the business. Internal research has found that those employees who have achieved their Gold Award had fewer complaints and more customer referrals.

This comes as no surprise to Matthew Bateman, British Gas Managing Director of UK Field Operations who believes the time invested in volunteering as part of a DofE programme is crucial: “Time spent in the community helps our new recruits relate to customers and their lives – something vitally important in a customer-focused business like ours”.

Paula Stannett, Chief People Officer at Heathrow Airport said “When we began delivering the DofE for our staff, it was for a trial period only. The programme has grown to be a real driver of talent. We’ve begun working to see how we could pass this success onto other businesses operating out of Heathrow. Our results speak for themselves.

As Chief Executive of the DofE it’s encouraging for me to see that some of the UK’s biggest companies are investing in young people through the DofE to develop their soft skills and become more rounded individuals. At the heart of ‘DofE Business’ lies an undeniable truth that personal development benefits both the employers and the employees, and in our constantly changing world, such programmes are needed now more than ever. So, make a late New Year’s resolution to explore how DofE Business can help your business.

To find out more about the DofE, visit www.dofe.org/softskills1

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