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Graduates don't feel they need people skills

A significant gap exists between how important people skills are seen to be by businesses and by new graduates, research from global management consultancy Hay Group has revealed.

The research found that while 93% of businesses believe strong people skills deliver commercial impact, 51% of graduates think they get in the way of getting the job done. 

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of graduates said that in order to succeed they just need to be good at their job, with 61% believing technical skills are more important than people skills at work.

As a result, 77% of those in charge of graduate recruitment and development admitted they have had to employ graduates without the necessary people skills due to lack of choice. Three-quarters (77%) are also concerned for the future of leadership in their organisation based on the people skills of current graduates. 

Another consequence is a mismatch between graduate expectations around promotion and the reality. While 45% of graduates expect to be promoted within their first six months, in fact just 17% are promoted in this timeframe.

“It’s not that today’s graduates lack potential,” said consultant at Hay Group David Smith. “In fact, psychometric assessment specialist Talent Q analysed data from more than 40,000 employees worldwide and found that graduates have as much potential as senior managers for self-awareness, self-control and teamwork, and more potential for empathy.” 

“This potential needs to be realised, however. It’s now down to organisations to recruit and develop graduates in the right way, so they appreciate the role these ‘softer’ skills play in their own development and the value they offer to the business.” 

Efforts are being made to address the imbalance in people skills, the research found. The majority (91%) of those in charge of graduate recruitment and development believe their business provides adequate training to develop the people skills of graduates. In fact, 83% state their managers spend more time training graduates on working effectively in a team than on technical skills. 

Businesses recognise there’s no quick fix, however; 62% believe it can take between six months and two years for graduates to develop the necessary people skills to deliver productively for the organisation. 

“Managing graduate expectations is essential: businesses must show graduates that, even if they’re not getting a promotion this time, their company is investing in them and they’re getting the training to progress further,” said Smith.