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'Soft skills' worth £88bn to UK economy

schedule 14th January 2015 by Virtual College in Virtual College Last updated on 7th July 2016

Soft skills - such as communication, initiative, interacting with others and team working - need to be viewed as drivers for business success, according to a new campaign by employers.

The Development Economics research group, commissioned by the campaign, says such skills are worth £88 billion to the UK economy and are particularly beneficial to businesses that work around face-to-face human interaction.

According to the research, workplaces that lack soft skills could be faced with a range of problems, such as low productivity levels, issues meeting quality standards, increased operating costs, and delays in introducing new products or services.

If soft skills among UK workforces don't see an improvement, more than 500,000 UK workers will be held back in their job opportunities by the end of the decade.

The campaign has received support from a number of giant organisations, including McDonald's, Barclays and the Confederation of British Industry. 

McDonald's is working to tackle the view that soft skills are a hazy concept and don't really have any economic value. The firm has rolled out a three-month consultation, with plans to publish a series of recommendations later in the year.

Jez Langhorn, chief people officer for McDonald's in the UK and northern Europe, listed interpersonal skills, time management and communication as "essential skills" for employees.

He went on to say: "Businesses think they are important, they are massively important to the UK economy, but they are not recognised to the extent that they should be.

"Maybe it's because of the terminology or maybe it's because people haven't defined what those soft skills are or people are not sure how to articulate those skills when they're talking to their boss about promotions."

Mr Langhorn urges the government to implement policies that will help both employers and employees to develop soft skills.

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