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Stephanie Morgan Technology and soft skills – the real business impact

Soft skills are making a comeback.

Reports show that the demand for soft skills in the workplace will rise significantly by 2020. In fact, further research suggests that organisations are now starting to put more weight on the importance of soft skills when hiring new employees, so you may have already noticed a shift in your organisation.

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The increase in demand for soft skills isn’t surprising when you factor in the frequency of organisational change experienced by employers and employees alike in the current business landscape. It makes sense that organisations need a workforce who are more resilient and managers who can lead in times of uncertainty.

But there is one factor that arguably trumps them all. And that’s technology.


Making way for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a bit of a buzz word at the moment, as it’s just starting to take a more prominent role in the workforce.

This shift will have a significant impact on the demand for soft skills which tend to rely on a more ‘human’ factor. The effect of this technology on skills demand is widely anticipated amongst many industries, for instance, Oxbridge Academy have recently predicted that “AI will result in a greater proportion of jobs relying on soft skills”.

So, we’ve established that technology will impact business needs for soft skills. But there is another way that technology is impacting soft skills demands.


The downside of being a digital native

At the same time as research is released on the future demand for soft skills, research on the millennial generation’s lack of soft skills is being published. In a recent Mckinsey study, 40% of employers said they are experiencing difficulties filling vacancies because younger workers lack soft skills such as communication and team work. So, we’re anticipating a much larger soft skills gap in the workforce than originally expected, especially as the millennials now make up over a third of the global workforce.

It’s suggested that the reason millennials are developing fewer soft skills compared with previous generations, is technology.

The term ‘digital natives’ and ‘millennials’ seem to go hand in hand. Millennials are the first generation who have grown up with access to a significant amount of technology and the effects have been seeping into the workplace over the last few years in particular. Due to this generation’s familiarity with tech, many millennials are excelling at developing technical skills which involve manipulating software - think of app or web development, data mining and even graphic design.

In contrast, the familiarity with technology means they have had less opportunities to develop core soft skills such as communication or the ability to manage conflict, as millennials can develop a habit of prioritising digital communication and engagement above face-to-face interaction.

“With the advent of technology, you’re on your phone, you’re behind a screen, so you haven’t had to create those personal connections as other generations have,” says Jill Jacinto, a Millennial career expert.

So, it seems technology is having a rather significant impact on the unmet demand for soft skills on the workplace. If not already, business will soon be struggling to find a workforce with the soft skills that are essential for future success.


The silver lining

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s an opportunity here for us in L&D to make a real difference to our learners and to the overall business success. It’s relatively unusual for us to know exactly what organisational change lies ahead and how it will affect our people, so this research really is a fantastic resource that L&D professionals should be making the most of.

The best way to prepare for the shift in skills demand, is by identifying and closing soft skills gaps in our current organisations, making sure our people and the business are ready for the future.

If you want to find out more on how to prepare, why not download our whitepaper on Preparing for the rise of the soft skill:

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Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning

Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.

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