Soft skills - or emotional intelligence (EQ) - are often undervalued by organisations, but they enable a leader to better understand, motivate and direct people. As a result, their teams are often more focused, productive and happier, added Cox.
There are four ways business leaders can promote the value of soft skills, according to Hays:
Ensuring that management is accessible within the workplace promotes better team work. And replacing email communications with face-to-face interactions can help a business to achieve this.
“As a business leader, you should set an example and actively demonstrate that interpersonal skills carry as much currency within your organisation as technical knowledge,” said Cox.
Encourage an open culture
It is vital that any business has an environment where employees can confidently share ideas and thoughts. Empowering a workforce through the encouragement of senior leaders to discuss projects will breed creativity.
“It’s important to build a culture in which all employees, no matter their experience, seniority or job title, feel confident to put forward ideas,” said Cox.
“You need to encourage yourself and others to think about what prevents someone speaking up in a meeting or putting forward an idea.”
Technology means that we are almost always contactable. While this has its obvious benefits, it can also be difficult to switch off and concentrate on the conversation at hand. Allowing yourself to discuss an issue with a colleague without distractions is extremely important. Failing to do so can send the wrong message.
“Proper listening is hard and requires undivided attention if you are to make any impact. If you don’t have the time right now to do a proper job, be honest and tell your colleague and rearrange a more appropriate time,” Cox added.
High EQ leaders will show self-awareness, resilience and can create connections with those around them. This isn’t something that can be forced; it’s difficult to fake being empathetic or genuine.
However, there are still areas where this can be improved.
“Small things like recognising an individual team member’s contribution or providing positive feedback on an idea can have a huge impact,” said Cox.
“Making sure the performance review process is encouraging and capturing soft skills will also demonstrate that the business’ intentions in this area are genuine.”
According to Cox, the latest technology, sector experts and innovative products are all crucial to a business. But it’s a team with rich soft skills that gives a business a "competitive edge".
Cox cautioned managers that it’s important not to dismiss these skills as “soft” and somehow optional.
“Make sure you view them with the same importance as technical skills, both in your new hires and in your existing employees,” he said.
Why soft skills are so popular in L&D
The best technical skills and qualifications can be taught, but they won’t be much good unless managers can communicate with their team effectively, according to Hays CEO Alistair Cox.