Strong communication skills underpin business agility

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Written by Armin Hopp on 22 August 2017

The latest Hays Global Skills Index discovered that the need to address skills shortages is more critical than ever and that the skills gap is fast becoming a skills chasm. Increasingly, organisations need employees with strong soft skills – such as the language and communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills that underpin a flexible and agile business.

Soft skills are hard to define and quantify but, according to Manpower, the absence of soft skills is the reason why, despite high youth unemployment, 54% of employers still can’t fill vacancies. One of the most important soft skills is the ability to work alongside different people for a common goal. Personalised language training can help narrow that soft skills gap.

The research interestingly points out that skills shortages and skills mismatches are worrying issues for businesses: “When employers find it difficult to recruit the people with the skills they need, there are real costs involved.

These may be lost business, reduced productivity or a need to undertake additional training to upskill people. There are also implications for the workload and welfare of existing staff with increasing pressure to meet growing demand.”

HR and L&D professionals are now focused on influencing learning culture, to improve talent retention, problem solving capability and to facilitate new ways of working.

There are signs that learning professionals are at last changing their approach, focusing now on fostering the cultural change needed meet the challenge of soft skills training. Towards Maturity report on the views of 5,500 business leaders across all sectors public and private, identified the need for organisations to take a fresh approach and think differently when it comes to learning innovation and business impact.

In 2016, the Towards Maturity survey identified a real shift. It found that nine out of ten learning professionals not only wanted to improve efficiencies and fine tune processes but also to transform the way they were thinking about learning and work, addressing performance agility and culture.

Around 10% fewer respondents are citing efficiency as a priority, while 10% more respondents are prioritising the need to influence current culture. HR and L&D professionals are now focused on influencing learning culture, to improve talent retention, problem solving capability and to facilitate new ways of working.

They are looking at and implementing courses that change the way an organisation operates.

Digital accelerators

The main changes Towards Maturity is seeing are in the way that learning professionals are implementing digital learning tools to support soft skills. What is new is that organisations are more likely to include technology to support skills in team working, communication, problem solving, innovation, and creative thinking to support a broader cultural and digital transformation within organisations.

In 2015, on average 10% of learning and development budgets went on technology. Most learning professionals (70%) expected this to rise by 2017. Yet, the early data shows that by 2017 there has been no increase at all in the percentage of the budget spent on technology.


Technology spend is still mainly going on known and trusted technology from LMS to elearning modules and including mobile and video technology. It is only the more mature, learning focused organisations that are more active with user generated content, badges, AI, wearable technology, virtual reality and simulation technology – use of these technologies all doubled in the past few years.

Despite this and the increasingly broad acceptance of the need to develop soft skills, early analysis has found that learning professionals are citing the top three barriers to learning are staff lacking skills to manage their own learning (up by 10%), concerns about cost, and line management reluctance (up by 10%).

Over 50% of respondents say staff lack the skills to implement online learning in the workplace, but this figure has gone down in 2017, hopefully indicating a return on investment in tackling soft skills.

The organisations that do best at closing the skills gap and developing a learning culture are often those that are making the most sophisticated use of performance analytics data. It is important to use performance data to understand relationships and to inform decisions that ultimately drive engagement and build the capabilities that lead to measurable increases in business value.



* This year’s Speexx Exchange, taking place on December 6, 2016, ´The Human Factor – How do We Rethink the Way We Learn, Communicate & Work?‘ will focus on how to address the soft skills gap.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. More than 8 million users in 1,500 organisations use Speexx to learn a language smarter and deliver results on time. For more information, visit


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