As more business functions are automated, soft skills will become more important than ever in order to connect with clients and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Recently, Deloitte Access Economics published a report commissioned by DeakinCo regarding the workforce skills necessary for success. The report, Soft skills for business success, found that soft skills – such as communication, active listening, problem solving and critical thinking – are just as important as technical skills. By 2030, it is predicted that soft skill-intensive occupations will make up almost two-thirds of the workforce.
While there are a number of factors influencing this trend, it can largely be attributed to globalisation and digital disruption. As technology advances and more business functions can be automated, having employees with strong soft skills will become more important than ever as a way for businesses to connect with clients and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
This position is supported by data released by Ebiquity, which recently undertook a global customer service survey. The survey revealed that when an individual engages a provider, they look for service, not just a competitive price. Service generally relates to soft skills such as effective communication, active listening and problem solving.
What does this mean for the financial planning industry?
Essentially, soft skills need to become an integral part of every organisation’s people strategy. To remain competitive, firms must incorporate them into three core elements – attract, motivate and retain.
Attract: Soft skills must become a key consideration in recruitment decisions. Specifically:
- Position descriptions must detail the relevant soft skills associated with the role;
- Soft skills need to be a key consideration when shortlisting candidates to progress to interview. The credentialing of soft skills by organisations such as Deakin University may assist in this respect;
- Candidate interviews should incorporate questions regarding the desired soft skills; and
- Due diligence checks should place as much importance on an individual’s ability to display attributes such as teamwork and initiative as they do on their ability to use a particular platform.
Motivate: It is imperative firms encourage employees to grow and develop their soft skills in addition to their technical abilities. Firms also need to ensure that they reward and recognise employees who display these attributes.
While it may seem counter intuitive to reward behaviour that doesn’t automatically yield the quantitative results you are seeking, it is important to demonstrate that you value these skills. Without positive reinforcement from management, employees are far less inclined to spend time mastering them. This will ultimately be to the long-term detriment of the firm.
Retain: It is no longer feasible to promote internal employees based on technical expertise or their ability to achieve individual success. Soft skills must play an integral role in differentiating high-performing employees who are ready to move to the next stage of their career. While technical skills will always be important, advanced communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills will become increasingly necessary for success, especially for leaders.
Creating a workforce that displays both technical ability and soft skills is certain to be a key differentiator between highly successful firms and their counterparts.
Christine Bau is principal of People Focused Consulting
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