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Skilling me softly: Neglecting these skills kills upward mobility

Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 12:00

To get a job, keep a job and advance through the ranks, we learn, train and hone particular skills required for a role. But there are skills absolutely crucial to getting ahead at which are not covered in lectures or learned on the job.

An accountant must be able to crunch the numbers and have certification to prove their training. However, it will be the accountant who interacts most positively with colleagues that receives a promotion not the accountant who got offside with his colleagues. And there is a very good reason for this.

Interpersonal and relationship skills are highly valuable to employers - as are teamwork skills, problem solving, emotional intelligence, leadership and values. These are all “soft skills” - personal attributes that are critical for a successful, lasting career.

In certain vocations, the rift that develops between teams, employees and managers because of a lack of soft skills is more evident. Take the popular British sitcom The IT Crowd. The show revolves around two stereotypically nerdy I.T. workers, Roy and Moss, tucked away by upper management down in the Reynholm Industries basement. The first episode introduces Jen, who has attained the role of “relationship manager”, in effect becoming the head of I.T. despite a complete lack of technical skill.

The series often features the pair pining for the pristine upper floors with beautiful London views, while Jen consistently manages to form beneficial relationships with the people on the levels above. Although this is a work of fiction, it is analogous to the reality of the industry that it lampoons. I.T. employers frequently report a distinct lack of soft skills among job seekers and that technical skills are simply not enough to guarantee success and upward movement in the industry.

In the modern workplace, interpersonal communication skills and the ability to create, maintain and repair relationships is necessary for career progression. Without them, you may barge your way ahead – but even if you do achieve success, it won’t be lasting. Even the best performers come risk coming unstuck without the right soft skills. The benefits of good soft skills for employees are clear. They provide job security and lay the foundations for pathways into management positions.

Soft skills are also transferrable between careers and never need to be re-taught. For employers, filling the soft skills gap leads to better commercial results, lower staff turnover and managers that are truly leaders, not just domineering delegators.

And that’s the beautiful thing. Soft skills just like any other skill can be trained and improved upon by anyone. The Australian Institute of Management provides a wide variety of learning opportunities designed specifically with the improvement of soft skills in mind. Take a short course covering Advanced Communication, Negotiating Skills, Emotional Intelligence and Effective Communication and skill-up your soft skills with the help of our talented facilitators.