Blog, News

Soft Skills – Are They Important and Should Employers Invest in Them?

In areas such as accountancy and finance, where qualifications and experience are a high priority, soft skills can sometimes be in danger of being undervalued.

However, they are a very important aspect of a successful work environment and help avoid the risk of a bad hire.

Understanding Soft Skills

What gets included in the list of soft skills tends to vary a little. In essence though, we are talking about interpersonal skills. The attributes and personality traits that enable individuals to interact effectively with others. You have probably had experience of someone with a lack of some soft skills and found them challenging to deal with either personally or professionally, and sometimes both. While hard skills can be quantified and measured though, soft skills are more abstract and far more difficult to pin down.

Generally speaking, though, some of the more prominent and key soft skills include:







Just as you have probably met someone who lacks these soft skills, you have also probably met someone who seems to effortlessly use some or all of them. We tend to bundle our reaction to someone with these skills into statements about them seeming a nice person, or how they are good to get along with and so on. Which is all very nice if you have just been on a first date, but this is about employee/employer investment, and the workplace is, in the end, about productivity.

So does all this really matter in the work environment? Why are they so important and what specifically do they mean to an employee, employer or candidate? I suppose it is also reasonable to also ask if they are less important in formal skills-based settings, such as the financial sector.

Soft Skills Advantages for Employers

The consensus is that soft skills can lead to significant benefits for employers, such as:

Improved Productivity: Employees who can communicate clearly and work well together are more likely to complete projects efficiently and to a high standard. Where information is constantly changing, such as in the financial world, formal and informal communication is also key to reacting to relevant changes and developments. Communication is also a huge factor in the success of hybrid working which is common in the post pandemic accountancy world.

Enhanced Customer Service: Accountants with strong interpersonal skills are better equipped to handle customer interactions. Empathy and effective communication are crucial in understanding and addressing customer needs. Most importantly for financial matters, good customer service is often rooted in being able to explain complex issues to clients in an accessible, appropriate way.

Positive Work Environment: A workforce with strong soft skills facilitates an inclusive work environment, because attributes like empathy and adaptability are the building blocks for a culture of respect and cooperation. These reduce workplace conflicts and embed themselves into job satisfaction. The perceived lack of positive environment is a common contributor to the reasons a passive candidate will leave a role. Your highflyers and young talent are therefore more likely to stay with you if your have a team with strong soft skills. For a business in the highly competitive financial world, staff retention is a major contributor to success.

Enhanced Employer Brand: A team with good soft skills is welcoming and that, along with other factors (see our blog here) will filter through to your employer brand in terms of passive word of mouth, social media proof and in person during your interview process. In a survey by Glassdoor, 77% of respondents said they would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job, and 56% stated that a good workplace culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.  In short, soft skills encourage new employees to join you, then help with retention, and go on to reduce the chance of a bad hire.

The Big Question – Can You Develop or Train for Soft Skills?

To summarise the usefulness of soft skills then, employers benefit from improved productivity, enhanced customer service, and a positive work environment. Candidates are attracted to the effect soft skills have in employer brand and, when they become employees, they enjoy better career advancement and job satisfaction. Bearing all that in mind, investment in soft skills development seems a sensible and perhaps even necessary, option.

So, can they be learned? Well, yes and no. Realistically speaking, a lot of who and how we behave is very firmly embedded in our personality. It is hard to change the habits of a lifetime. That said, many soft skills can be developed through training and there are numerous courses available online, as face to face in seminars, or via visiting experts. Mentoring and social interaction can also help improve empathy and create communities rather than workplaces.

In some instances, of course, the appropriateness of soft skills training can be affected by the individual. Some neurodiverse conditions may require different support for example. Similarly, cultural background and belief systems may be a factor. The choice of soft skills development will be as individual as the workforce but the goal of improved communication, empathy, inclusive workplaces and productivity improvement, are likely to stay the same.

At the end of the day there is very strong evidence that the development of soft skills is a desirable goal for employers, as well as being of benefit to the careers and development of employees, and it can help attract the top talent when recruiting.

The Research Behind Soft Skills Supports Their Importance.

The published research and industry surveys, definitely support the importance of soft skills in the workplace. According to a 2019 report by LinkedIn, for example, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers reported that soft skills are as important, if not more important, than hard skills. It also stated that most hiring and firing decision came down to soft skills. Realistically speaking that doesn’t mean qualifications, learned technical skills and experience are not the baseline for an appropriate candidate in a financial or accountancy workplace. Far from it. However, if only for retention and bad hire reasons alone, continuing soft skills development and the recognition of their importance to the employment process, could be a worthwhile investment.

If you want to discuss how soft skills assessment can be incorporated into your hiring process, call us and let’s talk.

Share this...