The Not-So-Soft Skill Every Leader Needs to Succeed

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Soft skills. People skills. Emotional intelligence. These are buzzwords we hear every day. They’re the qualities we should aspire to as professionals and leaders if we want to be successful at inspiring others, elevating our brands, and improving our companies’ bottom lines. But when it comes to defining these skills—not to mention developing them—we have a harder time being concrete. We tend to attribute great people skills to the luck of the draw. Some people are just born with them.

But the reality is that these skills are becoming more an more critical every day. In fact, a recent study from ManpowerGroup found that 61 percent of American companies rate soft skills as the most desired skills in new hires. The ManpowerGroup report refers to these skills as “Human Strengths,” and suggests that these are the skills that will “future-proof” the workforce against automation.

“Human strengths include traditional soft skills like communication, collaboration and creativity, as well as uniquely human traits like empathy, relationship-building, cognitive ability, curiosity and the desire to learn. Human strengths are skills that will augment technology and reduce the threat of replacement by automation.”

And the soft skill the report cites as both most valuable and hardest to find? Communication.

ManpowerGroup Human Skills CHartManpowerGroup Report: Skills Revolution 2.0, 2018

The #1 Soft Skill: Communication

We weren’t surprised to see that more than half the companies surveyed cited communication as their most valued soft skill. After all, research shows that communication drives 80 percent of our work on any given day. And that’s good news for leaders and would-be leaders because, contrary to popular belief, communication is a skill that can absolutely be measured and improved.

So why do so few organizations make communication training a priority?

Part of the problem is that personalized training methods like executive coaching are too time-consuming and cost prohibitive to roll out for anyone other than the most high-powered senior executives, and group seminars and workshops tend to too formulaic to be effective.

Another factor that makes communication training—or any soft skills training, for that matter—tricky is that, while we can agree every employee needs communication skills, the specific requirements vary from role to role. While salespeople need to be charismatic, persuasive, and personable in order to earn trust from potential buyers, managers need to focus on being clear and thorough, diving into the hows and whys that will inspire their teams to get behind each new project. Some roles require stellar storytelling skills while others are all about confidence. And, of course, the CEO has to be the visionary communicator who can rally the troops.

With the lack of training programs that are both effective and scalable, and the differing needs from one leader to the next, it’s easy to see why HR and L&D professionals are struggling to identify communication development opportunities that can give each participant the unique skills he or she needs to succeed.

At Quantified Communications, we’re leveraging the latest in machine learning technology and communication science to offer organizations exactly that. Our data-driven communication evaluations offer leaders and potential leaders the same quality training they’d get from individual executive coaches—with the added benefit of tracking capabilities that enable learners to measure progress and update action plans for maximum impact. And all without busting the L&D budget.

Limited resources have long made it difficult for organizations to build communication training into their learning and development strategies. But if soft skills are the key to success, and communication is the most important of the soft skills, shouldn’t it be the number-one training priority?

For the first time, it can.