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Graduates value soft skills for the future

Graduates believe that technological advancement will have a positive or very positive impact on the future of business

Half of graduates consider soft skills the key capabilities they will need for the future, according to research from CEMS (the Global Alliance in Management Education).

The survey of 433 CEMS graduates found that more than half (56%) consider either social skills (33%) or the ability to manage people (23%) the most important skills to develop as technology makes inroads into the workplace. They rated these soft skills more highly than teachable hard skills (7%), technical job-specific content skills (7%), or process skills such as critical thinking (12%).

The graduates were also optimistic about the rise of tech, with 97% believing that technological advancement (including automation and AI) will have a positive or very positive impact on the future of business.

Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS, said the “human touch” will increase in importance in the workplace of the future. “Technological disruption is clearly at the forefront of the minds of our graduates. However, rather than having a bleak vision they see this as a fresh opportunity to get ahead if they can develop the right approach and skills.

“Technology will certainly mean that the human touch will be more important than ever in the workplace over the next few years. In terms of leadership, traditional ways of thinking about management – where technically-qualified people are eventually promoted to management – are likely to become a thing of the past.”

Siegers said that future leaders will instead need to develop a new set of people-centric skills. “The most successful managers will be those who can invest in their community, skilfully develop employees to get the best out of them, and cultivate highly-effective teams with the ability to work seamlessly across borders,” he said. “Promoting the values of openness, sustainability and inclusiveness will be extremely important as the foundation of these people skills.

“This new generation of leaders will display high cultural intelligence as they operate globally; able to move through the initial stages of small talk and fast-forward to connecting at a deeper level. These skills will mean they will have high potential to successfully lead international teams and thrive in a technological age.”