This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
As a business leader, if you're focused on cultivating hard skills at the expense of soft skills and emotional IQ, you're doing it wrong.
Identifying employees with the right soft skills is crucial to building a strong talent mix and setting your team up for success, and yet leaders are struggling to find and nurture these skills. In fact, LinkedIn's 2016 Soft Skills Report found that 61 per cent of Canadian hiring managers feel that the lack of soft skills among candidates limits their company's productivity.
Beyond compromising morale, there's a financial risk to neglecting the right skills when building a team: bringing in – and having to let go of – the wrong person can cost you six to nine months of that employee's salary to replace them, according to a study done by The Society for Human Resource Management. So which skills in particular should you be on the lookout for? Our research found that the most important soft skills for Canadian managers are teamwork, problem-solving and communications.
Here are three reasons why hiring for and cultivating these skills among your employees will pay dividends long-term:
Keep your company nimble
The past few years have been hard for Canadian companies with the declining dollar and an uncertain economic environment. As we face the long road to recovery and the economic landscape continues to shift, it's more critical for business leaders to lead by example and remain flexible in the face of the unknown.
The tools and hard skills you value most to deliver your product or service may shift, but building a team of adaptable problem-solvers with proven strategic chops will help you pivot as required and keep up with the pace of change. Encouraging your employees to flex their problem-solving muscles by challenging them to foresee and resolve issues can promote a culture of continuous improvement. Above all, this will help you build and maintain a competitive edge.
Build better business relationships
In today's era of constant communication where any misstep can go viral, it goes without saying that we must be especially conscious of how we're communicating with colleagues, employees and clients. And yet, strong communication skills are often undervalued in the workplace. According to the Mitchell Communications Group, miscommunication costs businesses $37-billion (or $26K per employee) in the United States and Great Britain every year.
Your employees are the frontline of your organization, and shape your customer experience and how your brand is perceived. People want to do business with those they like and trust, and it's on company leadership to empower their teams to build these positive relationships or risk damaging your reputation. Consider clarifying your company's view on communicating internally and externally. Hire employees with the specific communication skills and experience that match your company's views. Invest in training on collaboration and communication for your existing team.
Ultimately, boost your bottom line
There's also a strong financial case for soft skills. Communication, interpersonal skills and time management were found to be worth an extra £88 billion to British businesses.
According to Joshua Freedman, a leading expert on emotional intelligence, business leaders and employees who rated highly in this category had more successful relationships with their teams, clients and customers, leading to improved productivity and sales. His research found that at PepsiCo, for example, executives selected for their soft skills generated 10 per cent more productivity from their teams, while sales people with high emotional intelligence at L'Oreal brought in $2.5-million more in sales.
As leaders, we need to ensure that we entrench an appreciation for soft skills and screen for these qualifications from the beginning. You might need an exceptional mobile developer or expert in systems management, but if they can't collaborate or problem-solve, they probably aren't the right hire.
Learning is a continuous process. Once you've built an emotionally intelligent, collaborative and strategic team, offering ongoing opportunities for mentorship or training, whether in person or through online courses like LinkedIn Learning, can help continue this momentum.
The implications of doing so are clear – well-rounded individuals who possess both the practical knowledge needed to succeed and high emotional intelligence are integral to the long-term success of your business.
Jonathan Lister is vice-president of sales and country manager at LinkedIn Canada.