By DAVID MYTON
Many recent university graduates lack the “soft skills” they need to perform at a high level in business and industry, according to a recent study.
The Bloomberg Next-Workday report – Building Tomorrow’s Talent: Collaboration Can Close Emerging Skills Gap – found that new recruits in the US were not meeting expectations in soft skills such as emotional intelligence, negotiation, persuasion, and complex reasoning.
“It is clear that new hires are entering the workforce with an incomplete set of skills,” it says.
Some 90 per cent of corporate respondents and 88 per cent of academics surveyed said new recruits possessed the “hard skills” – such as computer literacy and written communication – to do their jobs successfully.
However, both groups “were far less satisfied with new employees’ soft skills”.
The report noted that employer needs were continually shifting in response to changes in industry and the marketplace, “so workers also need to keep refreshing both their hard and soft skills”.
New recruits not meeting expectations
Survey respondents from both business and academia agreed the most important soft skills were teamwork, analytical reasoning, complex problem-solving, agility, adaptability, and ethical judgment.
Respondents noted, however, that new recruits were not meeting expectations in such soft skills as emotional intelligence, negotiation and persuasion, and complex reasoning.
“This indicates that business and academia are failing to develop a skill they have identified as one of the most important.”
The report notes that “a surprising number of organisations lack formal plans and budgets for addressing the impact of emerging technologies”.
“Business and academia are not collaborating as actively and effectively as they could be in preparing students for employment and re-skilling individuals already in the workforce.”
Business ‘clearly wants a different mix of skills’
David Williams, a principal with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, said the skills issue was “a collaboration problem”.
“Academia has every right to say they are turning the smartest, best-educated students ever, but business clearly wants a different mix of skills,” he said.
“I think the narrative really ought to be about collaboration. How do these groups collaborate around developing the skillsets that will produce the most important and relevant work product?”
Zia Khan, vice president of innovation at the Rockefeller Foundation, challenged the view that the skills-development pipeline always flows from academia to business.
“I think we’re going to see a much less linear approach,” he said. “For one thing, it can work backwards where business feeds problems back to academia to guide their research efforts more productively.”
Khan agreed that soft skills should be developed primarily at the university level.
But it was up to business to send a stronger “market signal” to universities and job-seekers that soft skills are important.
Top five most important soft skills
1 Team working skills
2 Analytical reasoning/critical thinking
3 Complex problem solving
4 Agility and adaptability
5 Ethical judgment/Decision-making
Young workers ‘feel unprepared for new world of industry’
Respondents – which included 10,455 millennials and 1,844 Gen Z from across six countries – reported they lacked confidence and were looking to businesses to help them to develop the necessary skills, “including the ‘soft’ skills they believe will be more important as jobs evolve”.
However, millennials expressed admiration for corporations that were adapting to and advancing Industry 4.0 and “developing their people to succeed in the evolving business environment”.
Companies and senior management teams “that are most aligned with millennials in terms of purpose, culture and professional development” were likely to attract and retain the best millennial talent and, in turn, potentially achieve better financial performance.
“Loyalty must be earned, and the vast majority of millennials are prepared to move, and move quickly, for a better workplace experience,” it says.