Lack of soft skills holds IT staff back from leadership roles

Soft skills

The importance of interpersonal skills has increased in recent years according to a new report, but companies aren't training their technology teams in these abilities.

The study from business and technology consultancy West Monroe Partners looks at soft skills, including communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, and leadership in relation to technology and IT hiring decisions

West Monroe surveyed 1,250 individuals made up of 600 HR and recruiting professionals, and 650 full-time employees who regularly work with their company's technology teams. Findings include that 98 percent of HR leaders say soft skills are important in landing a technology position -- so important that 67 percent say they have withheld a job offer from an otherwise qualified technical candidate solely because they lacked soft skills.

Verbal communication and collaboration are ranked as the most important soft skills. Once hired, however, most companies don't invest in developing their technology professionals' soft skills further. In fact, around a quarter of companies provide soft skills training to line-of-business employees, but not to IT.

HR leaders also consider leadership to be the least important soft skill for prospective technology hires. This perhaps explains why 39 percent of companies lack someone with a technology background in C-suite positions. An absence which can affect collaboration between business and tech employees.

On the employee side 43 percent of full-time employees say soft-skills-related challenges with IT have negatively impacted their work, which is problematic considering that innovative projects increasingly require employees to work alongside each other. Collaboration-based issues have delayed or prolonged a project for 71 percent of respondents. In addition a third of employees say they have missed a deadline altogether because of communication issues.

"Technologists and full-time employees are collaborating more than ever, and it's evident this will continue in the coming years," says Greg Layok, senior director of West Monroe's technology practice. "However, communication barriers can still silo these groups and stifle productivity. Businesses must take a two-pronged approach to training -- one that not only develops technologists’ soft skills to effectively collaborate with the line of business, but also teaches business leaders a level of fluency to understand the technology side."

The full report: Closing the Technology Leadership Gap is available from the West Monroe website.

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