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skills and business success. Citing research can help remind the C-suite of your academic validity and origins in organisational behaviour,

management and psychology: ` `

In 2015, a report by Development Economics sponsored by McDonald’s UK published data estimating “soft skills are worth over £88bn in Gross Value Added to the UK economy each year, underpinning around 6.5% of the economy as a whole”. Te report also stated, “the annual con- tribution of soft skills is expected to grow strongly over the next five years. By 2020, the annual contribution of soft skills to the economy is expected to grow in real terms to £109bn, and to just over £127bn by 2025”.

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In 2013, a study by Korn Ferry analysts David Zes and Dana Landis confirmed the “direct relationship between leader self-awareness and organisational financial performance” through an intensive multi-year study. Trough analysis of the stock performance of 486 companies in conjunction with administering 6,977 self-assessments to the profes- sionals within those companies, the authors found that “public companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.” In 2008, a study3

by Green Peak

Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labour Relations found a correlation between executive interpersonal skills and business results. Te findings stated, “harsh, hard-driving, ‘results-at-all- costs’ executives actually diminish the bottom line, while self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance”. Principal researcher Dr Becky Winkler says, “A key takeaway is that soft values drive hard results – and that companies and their investors need to put more effort into evaluating interpersonal strengths of potential leaders.”

Show what business would be like without great people

While executive leaders might look to new competitors or changes in the economy as their business’s greatest risk factors, they could benefit from being reminded of what the business

would look like without great people. In contrast to external risks, it is the individuals who lack self-awareness, especially those in leadership roles, who can pose the greatest threat to organisational effectiveness. Leaders lacking soft skills can be the bottleneck of efficiency and

for the message to connect with the recipient in a more effective way. Author and founder of HR Capital

Source, Jac Fitzenz says: “Talent man- agers’ ability to maximise HR’s value is now married to their ability to talk in understandable terms.” He continues, “Tis is business acumen, linking HR

Remind the C-suite of your academic validity and origins in organisational behaviour, management and psychology

origin of organisational dysfunction. A 2005 paper4

authored by Med

Jones, president of the International Institute of Management, states: “Te leadership team is the most important asset and its worst liability.” Jones continues, “Even fast-growing and profitable companies can develop bad internal politics and unproductive work habits that will eventually lead to declining performance.” Lencioni also writes, “Te financial cost of having an unhealthy organisa- tion is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and cus- tomer attrition. Te money an organi- sation loses as a result of these prob- lems, and the money it has to spend to recover from them, is staggering.”5 From my experience, when

executives realise what’s at stake by not developing their people, the budget allocation conversations change in both profound and subtle ways.

Get through to the C-suite with a little C-speak

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, to get through to the C-suite, HR leaders have to brush up on their C-speak. Tis means they have to talk about what the C-suite cares about, present the information in the way they want it and communicate in their preferred interpersonal style. Call it “adapting and connecting”.

Tis technique allows anyone to use their understanding of themselves and others to adapt their message to the interpersonal preferences of their intended audience in order

services, processes and systems to employee performance, hence revenue generation or cost reduction. It’s more than just running your service. It’s making a financial contribution to your organisation. If HR doesn’t add financial value, it has a limited future.”6


Talent management leaders have their work cut out getting their C-suites to see the business value behind people development, but with the right tools they can make strides to enable this shift in today’s business landscape. And while, for now, it’s unlikely we will craft our LinkedIn profiles around our soft skillset, the C-suite must realise that it is these competencies to which personal and professional success is intrinsically tied.

Andy Lothian is chief executive of Insights and can be contacted at

References 1 McGraw M, Soft Skills in the C-Suite, Human Resources Executive Online, 2013

2 Young C, The real reason why training budgets are cut first and budgeted last, HR Resource, 2009

3 Flaum JP, When it comes to business leadership, nice guys finish first, Green Peak Partners, 2008

4 Jones M, Politics of Failure: Workplace Politics and Poor Performance, International Institute of Management, 2005

5 Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage, John Wiley & Sons, 2012

6 Fitzenz J, The New HR Analytics: Predicting the Economic Value of Your Company’s Human Capital Investments, American Management Association, 2010

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