Soft skills are crucial to both individual and business success and will become ever more important in an increasingly competitive global economy. Almost any modern workplace, big or small, relies on team-working, collaboration and customer interaction of one kind or another. Whether you’re a CEO, a mum returning to work or a young person in your first job, you need these skills to work to your full potential and help make the business productive and high-performing.
At McDonald’s UK, we see this every day in our restaurants; soft skills can really impact a customer’s experience with us. We serve three million people every day and we want to make sure each of them enjoys great service. That’s why we recruit on qualities, not just qualifications, and give people the opportunity to gain and improve their soft skills while they’re working for us.
New evidence reveals the hard value of soft skills for the first time. Today they are worth £88 billion to the UK economy, and this is predicted to increase to £109 billion within five years.
However, there are early warning signs that employers, government and educators are not doing enough to support soft skills. Three-quarters of UK employers say there is already a soft skills gap in today’s workforce and economists predict that by 2020 over half a million workers will be significantly held back by a lack of these skills. The knock-on effect is that individuals and organisations will experience lost productivity, lower profits and less competitiveness. In a still tough economic climate, we can’t afford to let this happen.
So why are soft skills not currently getting the recognition and backing they deserve? We’ve spent time talking about soft skills with employees, employers and a wide range of other organisations across the UK. We’ve heard loud and clear that employers struggle to find tangible ways to promote soft skills, and many UK employees lack confidence in articulating and selling these skills.
We want to change this. That’s why we are working with entrepreneur James Caan, and a host of employers and business groups including the CBI, CIPD, National Youth Agency, and Federation of Small Businesses, to call for a re-evaluation of the value of soft skills. As part of this we have opened a three-month consultation. I urge other employers to take part and share their own experiences.
Working together, we can take action to recognise, promote and improve soft skills. If we succeed, the prize is worth more than £109 billion to the UK economy by 2020, and it will make a real difference to the careers and lives of millions of people.
Employers can find out more and take part in the consultation at www.backingsoftskills.co.uk
Jez Langhorn is chief people officer for McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe