The Soft Skills Revolution: Why now, more than ever, it's good to talk!

In 1994 the first British Telecom advert featuring Bob Hoskins uttering the immortal line “It’s good to talk” hit screens in the UK. The adverts became iconic and throughout the 90s people up and down the land continued to mimic the catchphrase in a gruff cockney accent. (If you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about you can watch the advert HERE) However, as we head towards the 2020s - just 13 and a bit months to go! - it’s worth revisiting Bob's message. The world of work is changing and in order to stay ahead of the curve businesses must focus on how they and their people communicate. We’re at the cusp of a soft skills revolution. The leaders and managers most equipped to create an impact will see their influence rise and will easily surf the wave. Those who fail to see what’s coming could be in for very turbulent times. There are five key trends to look out for…

#1 - The Rise Of The Robot

If you are worried about when the robots might be coming, I’d ask you to open your eyes and look around. The robots are already here. We live in a world where cars can drive themselves, where drones can deliver our shopping, where we no longer have to speak to someone at the supermarket check out. In 70 hospitals in the UK there are robots carrying out surgery as I type. In Russia in 2017 the first house was 3D printed in less than 24 hours at the cost of $10,000. Change isn’t coming, change has already come and the implications for the workforce are huge. By 2030 it is estimated that 30% of all tasks will be carried out by robots or Artificial Intelligence. However what the robots can’t yet do is emotional intelligence. They can’t replicate our social and creative skills. As leaders we need to be more human. We need to focus on developing our people’s ability to make sense of the numbers rather than their ability to crunch them.

#2 - The Age Of The Millennial

In 2017 35% of the workforce was made up of Millennials. By 2020 that number will have risen to 50%. That provides both opportunities and challenges. Millennials are used to operating across multiple channels. They’ve grown up around social media and are more used to an “always on, always connected” world. However, jobs are no longer for life and this has caused Millennials to place a greater focus on purpose and values than previous generations have. The lure of a great salary may not be enough when viewed alongside unsociable hours and an unexciting office environment. To harness the energy and talent of this substantial part of the workforce leaders need to become better at storytelling. They need to be able to paint a compelling vision of the future and inspire people to join them on the journey.

#3 - The Decline Of The Office

The 9 to 5 is no longer a reality. More people than ever are working flexible hours. Companies are offering unlimited holiday. Coffee shops around the world are filled with people working from their laptops with their smart phone in one hand and a flat white in the other. As our time spent in the office decreases, how we communicate outside of those four walls becomes more important than ever. Anyone who’s had the misfortune to be on a conference call will understand the challenges that exist. Whilst an increase in the use of video and better technology can help, leaders will need to get more focused in the way they communicate. They need to develop the ability to convey key messages in a succinct and compelling way so that they cut through the noise and get heard.

#4 - The Breakdown Of Borders

Whatever the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations the world is getting smaller. The population is more mobile and even the smallest of businesses can have a global reach. Workplaces are more diverse than ever before and advances in technology mean that information flows around the world at the speed of light. Communicating across borders is an interesting challenge. Cultural stereotypes abound and yet they are frequently inaccurate. Understanding cultural context is vital but making assumptions about behaviour is misguided. To be truly effective leaders must develop their ability to listen, remain flexible and avoid the trap of generalisation. Those that can truly step into their audience’s shoes will reap the benefits, bring new perspectives and energy to the problems they solve.

#5 - The Death Of The Salesman

As we edge towards 2019 the consumer is King. The way that we buy has changed forever and as a result the traditional sales person with their slick patter and pearly white smile is a thing of the past. Social selling is here to stay and that means everyone in your business, whether they like it or not, have now become a sales person. Social proof has become an important currency and prospective clients will scrutinise your reviews and your star ratings as closely as they will your price. With consumers turning to social media to vent their frustrations and using websites like glass door to rate their previous employers everyone from the reception desk to the boardroom table needs to understand the role they play in selling your organisation. Leaders with a strong personal brand that aligns to the company values will act as ambassadors both internally and externally developing relationships that will impact the bottom line.

The Soft Skills Revolution

If businesses want to stay ahead of the curve and meet the challenges of the five big trends they need to embrace a soft skills revolution. The challenges we face require us to get better at communicating with others. When I look around most organisations I see too many people who lack gravitas, are siloed and who’s messages are unclear and irrelevant. In the military and the world of professional sports the ratio of preparation to performance is around 80:20. 80% of time is spent in training and rehearsal and only 20% of time on the field of play. In business we are nowhere near that. We can’t expect elite results if we don’t encourage elite behaviour. At the very least we need to flip the ratio to 20:80 if we want our people to succeed. We should be spending 20% of our time preparing, planning, training and rehearsing and 80% of our time doing the work. If we make that shift, we’ll develop leaders who are more confident, create better connection and can deliver content that resonates. They’ll be able to create an impact, increase their influence and inspire their audiences to action. It’s a big change but the rewards are huge: higher productivity, deeper engagement and ultimately increased profit. The time to start is now.

If you’d like to prepare your leaders and managers to meet the challenges of The Soft Skills revolution talk to us about how our IMPACT Masterclass and Communication Skills Accelerator can help. Give us a call on 03330 50 40 36. It’s good to talk!