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Sometimes it is the things we fail to notice that actually are making the biggest difference. A case in point is soft skills.

shutterstock_306069551Often referred to as ‘EQ’ (‘emotional intelligence quotient’), these skills have recently been quantified as accounting for £88bn of the UK economy. In addition, more than half of UK businesses value soft skills more highly than academic qualifications.

So, what are these secrets to success – and which five soft skills could most help your business?

  1. Interpersonal skills

No one person can do everything, every business relies on teamwork. In fact, for many employers interpersonal skills are the most important trait for an employee to hold.

These skills include those of negotiation and the building of rapport, which are just as important for an IT manager as they are for a sales executive.

  1. Communication skills

Communication skills are not about the ability to produce faultless PowerPoint presentations. Instead, they are the ability to understand and empathise with others, and adapt appropriately to this, whether in writing or in conversation. This is essential for facilitating work within and across teams in your business.

The communication skill most often overlooked is listening. Your sales staff must talk persuasively but if they cannot listen they will miss every signal a prospect sends.

  1. Critical thinking skills

The ability to make decisions that consider all angles and effectively solve problems is critical to the continued growth of your business. This is just as essential for customer service positions, where creative responses offering solutions are always needed, as it is for an IT systems expert who must find ways to allow the increasing number of devices in the office to connect to the network.

  1. Personal development skills

The only real constant is change – your business needs people who can adapt and develop with it. How else, other than through costly recruitment of new talent, will you gain a competitive advantage if your staff cannot do more than struggle to keep up with the latest advances?

Those who can learn are typically also adaptable, flexible and respond to change positively. You certainly need plenty of attributes like that in an ever-changing workplace.

  1. Leadership skills

Your business has always needed people who can influence others toward the achievement of its goals – but increasingly it needs someone who can do this by being part of a team, rather than sitting aloof from them.

A leader is not someone who is forceful, though they may have powerful charisma. Leaders today need to respect the thoughts, opinions and ideas of others and be able to bring out the best in them.

A leader is increasingly a facilitator – they are someone who creates the conditions for things to happen.

What makes the wheels go round?

Having sector experience, technical knowledge and hard skills without having any of the soft skills is like owning a diesel car without a petrol tank. It looks good on paper but it is not going to get you very far in real life.

Any skill your employee has must be backed by soft skills: they are what really make the wheels of commercial success keep turning.