I read an article today about some research done for Hay Group, a management consultancy, that had as its main theme the fact that
"70% of graduate respondents say[ing] that in order to succeed in their work they simply need to be good at their job, with half (51%) feeling people skills actually get in the way of getting the job done. Overall, 61% of graduates said they believe technical skills are more important than people skills at work"
Interesting. Very interesting.
What do you think? How important are people skills like empathy? Should it only matter that you are technically good at your job?
Before telling you what employers think, I'm going to get you to have a serious think about this.
A day in the life....
Imagine yourself, asking your lecturer for some advice on a subject you find tricky. They give you a fantastically detailed answer. All fine and great - except that they made you feel a bit rubbish, because they started with 'Well I already explained it, but I suppose if you really need it explained again.....'
You then go for a coffee. My word, you really need it, because you don't feel too great after that lecture. And the server makes you a cappuccino as requested, and it's perfect, handing it over with a still face. No smile.
Next, off to buy a gift for your father. Fathers can be tricky to buy for, so you ask the assistant in the bookshop (he loves books) for a bit of advice. He has a chat with you about what your Dad likes - and doesn't seem to mind when you only have a vague idea that he kind of likes thriller books but you can't really remember. You leave with a book you hope he will like - and the promise you can exchange it at a branch local to your Dad if necessary.
How would those three encounters have made you feel?
All three of the people you interacted with knew their stuff. Great technical abilities. You got the thing you needed. But which one made you feel OK about asking? And more likely to go back there?
Yes, that is a very generalistic example. But hopefully it illustrates the importance of people skills. Demonstrated well, they make the people around them feel better. And people that feel better, and valued, work better.
Still feel that technical abilities are more important than people skills?
The employers' perspective
You might like to know what employers think. In the same article, they felt very strongly about this issue. In fact,
"91% of graduate recruiters believe employees who do not develop good people skills will be ineffective future leaders"
"The majority (89%) of graduate recruiters said they believe poor people skills stifle graduates’ progression"
Sadly, these graduate employers also felt that many of today's graduates don't have enough people skills for them:
"More than three-quarters of graduate recruiters say they have had to employ graduates without the right people skills due to a lack of choice"
Help is at hand
Now, we know you. We know you to be charming individuals, with lovely people skills. So the problem must be in how you demonstrate them during the recruitment process.
If you'd like a little help in articulating your empathy, or talking about how you would go the extra mile to help a colleague, or what good customer service means to you, then please ask us for advice. We'd be only too pleased to help you.
We're open every day during the vacation, and appointments are bookable online for our Quick Query service. And for those of you further afield, we can speak to you by phone or Skype - call us on 01225 386009 to arrange an appointment.
And, of course, if you would like to see more about the Hay Group’s research, it is available online.