Hard times, soft skills
Lina Saigol, Director at Bladonmore, discusses the skills gap in graduates post-Covid and the impact it has on communicating with confidence.
“Whether it’s oral communications or written communications, if you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me you cannot get the masters to follow you.”
That’s the verdict of former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who now serves on the board of Amazon.
It’s a refrain that’s starting to echo across boardrooms of organisations, with strong communication and presentation skills now ranked as one of the top two core competencies businesses look for when hiring new recruits, according to LinkedIn’s most in-demand skills list for 2023.
But after more than three years working and conversing remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, many graduates have emerged without the interpersonal skills needed to communicate with confidence.
Being able to communicate concepts clearly and concisely to a wide range of audiences – whether it’s colleagues and senior managers or suppliers and clients – is key to persuading and negotiating. Effective influencers have the power to make others listen and change their opinions.
In other words, an employee might have a brilliant idea, but if they can’t persuade anyone else to follow their vision, their influence and impact will be significantly lessened.
Closing skills gap
That helps explain why big business is stepping up efforts to close the skills gap. Deloitte and PwC, which run some of the largest graduate recruitment programmes in the UK, said in May that they would offer new recruits training on skills that have been neglected during the pandemic. That includes giving face-to-face presentations and participating in in-person meetings.
The Labour government is also concerned. In July, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would provide speaking lessons for school children, as he put oracy at the centre of his party’s plans to overhaul the education system.
“Oracy is a skill that can and must be taught,” Starmer said. “It’s key to doing well in that crucial job interview, persuading a business to give you a refund, telling your friend something awkward. Oracy is a skill that can and must be taught.”
Poor presentation skills mean that leaders fail to inspire their teams, products fail to sell, entrepreneurs fail to attract funding, and careers fail to soar. That seems like a big price to pay for neglecting a fundamental skill.
If your graduates – or, indeed, your high-flyers – need to get up to speed with their oral or written communications get in touch.