Firms lose out by not investing in soft skills

10 Mar 2023

Insufficient low-level soft skills-building opportunities is costing the UK £22.2 billion each year, according to new findings. This includes so-called soft skills such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving. The report, carried out by Skills Builder Partnership together with the CIPD, KPMG and Edge Foundation, showed that individuals with greater levels of essential skills earn an additional £4,600 on average a year. More than 2,000 workers in Britain were polled, revealing that 51% had missed out on fundamental soft skills building opportunities, with an average cost of £680 each, People Management reports. Considering the wider population, the cost of not offering these opportunities equates to £22.2 billion per year. 

Value of soft skills 

The report also showed how workers acknowledge the value of these essential soft skills. As many as 92% said soft skills were important for their career progression. This is higher than the 84% who said sector-specific knowledge and digital skills were important, followed by numeracy skills with 82% and technical skills with 65%. Businesses should focus on the development of soft skills from the outset, according to WorkNest’s head of organisation development services, Annabelle Carey. “The focus on soft skills should be embedded throughout the employment lifecycle,” she said. “Clearly setting out the interpersonal skills required for the role in the person specification, not just focusing on technical skills and experience; developing a competency framework setting out highly valued behaviours that can be used as part of the performance review process; and providing bespoke training aligned with the organisation’s culture and values.” Carey went on to say that there were “plenty of ways” in which businesses could embrace soft skills, such as “psychometric tools, a 360-degree feedback scheme and coaching or mentoring.” The data also revealed 18% of the working population have a good education, but insufficient soft skills-building opportunities have led to a decline in job satisfaction.

What can employers do? 

Managers have a significant responsibility when it comes to the development of employees’ soft skills. As an example, those who engage and promote prosocial actions such as inclusion, kindness and interest will typically inspire their workforce to do the same. “These behaviours help to build trust and cooperation in teams and support individuals to manage stress more effectively. Training your managers and leaders to employ coaching skills such as active listening has been shown to benefit employee engagement and business performance,” says the co-founder of Ultimate Resilience, Jo Burrell. The study also revealed 56% of workers in Britain would contemplate seeking a new job if it provided enhanced essential skills-building opportunities.