Talking about their generation: how soft skills increase graduates’ commercial impact

John O'Hanlon
- Leadership - May 05, 2015

As thousands of University students get ready to take their final exams and start competing for graduate jobs, new research from global management consultancy, Hay Group, has found that 92 percent of global business leaders and HR directors believe that graduates with soft skills will be increasingly important as globalisation speeds up and organisational structures change. While graduates have the potential, 75 percent of the business leaders and HR directors surveyed by Hay Group said they have the impression that entry-level graduates aren’t prepared for the working world.

The research also shows that nine in ten business leaders and HR Managers believe that employees with strong people skills deliver a bigger commercial impact and 88 percent describe employees with an aptitude for people skills as ‘worth their weight in gold’. Some 80 percent said they struggle to find graduates with the soft skills they need and 86 percent of respondents said that keeping hold of graduates with those skills is a concern.

·     92 percent of business leaders and HR directors believe that graduates with soft skills will be increasingly important as globalisation speeds up

·     Nine in ten believe that employees with strong people skills deliver a bigger commercial impact

·     Global psychometric analysis proves graduates have all the potential they need

Data analysis of more than 40,000 employees worldwide from psychometric assessment specialist Talent Q, part of Hay Group, shows that graduates have as much potential as senior managers for self-awareness, self-control and teamwork and more potential for empathy. Despite very different education systems, levels of both general intelligence and potential for soft skills are very similar among graduates around the world. While graduates have the potential, 75 percent of the business leaders and HR directors surveyed by Hay Group in 2014 said they have the impression that entry-level graduates aren’t prepared for the working world. Some 80 percent said they struggle to find graduates with the soft skills they need and 86 percent of respondents said that keeping hold of graduates with those skills is a concern.

Lucy Beaumont, Solutions Director, Talent Q, comments: “Despite what many employers think, our research demonstrates that today’s graduates have just as much potential to succeed as any other generation, both in terms of cognitive ability and soft skills. It is up to the businesses to ensure that this potential is realised by recruiting and developing graduates in the correct way. This means focussing on measuring hard and soft skills and looking for potential rather than relying on experience. In doing so, organisations can identify graduates with the attributes to be successful, and then develop their potential for emotional and social skills quickly and cost-effectively once they’re in your organisation.”

The importance of developing graduate soft skills

Organisations need to objectively screen graduates to identify those with high potential. Once recruited, they should support graduates to quickly develop the emotional and social skills required, including self-awareness, self-control, influence, empathy and teamwork. This ensures graduates are prepared to negotiate the workplace and rapidly make an impact. It also guards against those who might otherwise struggle to get along. In fact, more than half of the graduates we surveyed said they’ve considered leaving their job because they “don’t fit in.”

Melody Moore, management consultant at Hay Group concludes: “It is essential organizations are able to identify the right graduates. But once in, organisations need to support their graduates through their first four months – turning their young hires into team players and ensuring they make a positive impact within the business.

“Through the use of tools such as business apps, personality self-assessments and priority task planning, organisations will be more likely to retain graduates, and graduates will be more likely to meet or exceed business leaders’ expectations.”

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