Talk the Talk
Almost every community in this country has business leaders who have decided to make their feelings known about the lack of preparedness of recent graduates to enter the workforce. For years employers have been demanding that potential employees possess such skills as communication, social skills, professionalism, critical thinking and teamwork, to name just a few. These are all soft skills.
Employer surveys bemoan the lack of soft skills in new hires. Yet seldom, if ever, is the topic of soft skills addressed in our educational institutions. Even in our post-secondary career training programs the lack of soft skills training is clearly evident. (See Examination of Technical Skills Training—Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills, National Soft Skills Association, March, 2015 http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/examination-of-technical-skills-training-hard-skills-vs-soft-skills/ )
This failure is hard to understand since research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills). These statistics were extrapolated from a Study of Engineering Education, authored by Charles Riborg Mann and published in 1918 by the Carnegie Foundation.
Almost 100 years have passed since this research was released and we still do not want to address the need for soft skills training. There are many reasons for this failure, however, it is now time for businesses to take it upon themselves to get this job done.
Who Is the Customer?
Every business leader knows that, in order to stay in business, you must ask yourself, “Who are my customers, and how can I address their needs?. The harsh reality is that a big difference exists between the public and private sector. In the private sector, if you do not address the needs of your customers, you are out of business. In the public sector, that is usually not the case. The question is if business leaders can address the needs of their customers, then why is it that the public sector cannot?
The answer is that leaders in education do not see their customers and their needs as clearly as the business leader does. Ask any educator who the customer is and you will mostly likely get a variety of answers, including education regulators at the state and federal level, school boards, teacher unions, parents, and students, to name just a few. What does not get identified is the true customer of our educational systems—our communities and the workplaces in those communities.
Here is a simple fact – if educators cannot recognize their customers then how can they possibly meet the needs of those customers?
A Call to Action
“All I can say as an employer and as a chair of a workforce development program preparing youth for the workplace, YES, YES, YES – I am shouting with joy that soft skills are being addressed. I have been moaning and grumbling for many years saying, “If soft skills are not there, it doesn’t matter if we can train brain surgeons.”
This is one of the many comments we have received regarding our efforts to infuse soft skills into training programs across the country. This person is in a unique position, as both employer and as an educational leader, to clearly see the negative effects of the lack of effort to address soft skills training in training programs. Unfortunately, most educational leaders and decision makers do not see it at all, to say nothing of clearly. This must change!
Walk the Walk
It is time to wake up for your very survival. Research shows that it now costs approximately one year of a person’s salary to hire and then be forced to let go an employee due to a lack of soft skills. The cost is staggering and most businesses cannot afford to do this. It is time for you to address soft skills in both your hiring and training processes. If you don’t, then who will?