Soft skills are vital for organisational success, say business leaders

A majority of business leaders see a positive impact on revenues following soft skills training investment as Apprenticeship Levy gathers pace, new research claims. Almost two-thirds (60 percent) of senior decision-makers said training employees in communication, leadership and sales skills leads to business growth. The findings suggest the new government-funded apprenticeship schemes introduced in April will improve companies’ bottom-lines, with 63 percent of respondents already seeing an increase in revenue from an investment in staff training. ‘Hard’ skills such as technical abilities were more of a focus under old apprenticeship schemes, but the data reveals business leaders want to invest in less quantifiable skills such as communication, leadership and customer service since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

The survey of 300 senior decision-makers, carried out by training and recruitment firm, Pareto Law, reveals training employees in areas like sales and teamwork is an essential business investment. Among the top five skill sets worth investing in, four-fifths (80 percent) fall into the soft skills criteria. Nearly a third (32 percent) believe customer relationship skills is a key priority, with 31 percent wanting to invest in leadership training, while over a quarter (27 percent) think negotiation and sales skills will improve the success of their company.

These findings come as a part of wider research into employer attitudes towards the Apprenticeship Levy, which was introduced by the UK government in April 2017. Three quarters (75 percent) of business leaders surveyed said they had a positive outlook on the levy, with half (50 percent) planning to recruit and train graduates using the funds and just under half (47 percent) looking to invest in senior staff.

Exploring the wider benefits of staff training, the research shows nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of businesses agree that improving their employee’s skills and knowledge increases revenues, with 61 percent saying it’s an effective way to boost productivity.

While employers are reaping the rewards of investment in soft skills, they also report that training has positive secondary effects, with 40 percent claiming their staff feel more valued as a result, and 35 percent seeing their workforce become more motivated.

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO and founder of Pareto Law, commented on the findings: “While employing people with the correct education and technical skills is important, business leaders know it’s not enough to help employees deal with the everyday. In order to have a successful business and a dedicated workforce, it’s worth investing in soft skills such as sales training to help them learn how to communicate effectively and ultimately improve the company’s bottom line. Formulas for building successful businesses were previously centralised around hard skills, but these results show interpersonal, communication and leadership skills are critical.

We wanted to do this research to discover how important employers found soft skills, and whether using the apprenticeship levy for these areas will benefit businesses across the UK.”