New study – Soft skills essential yet many business lagging behind

A new study by The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) has identified soft skills as essential in the Australian workforce, yet businesses are failing to invest in their own employees.

According to the ‘AIM Soft Skills Survey 2019’, 9 out of 10 Australian leaders perceive soft skills as critical when hiring new talent and 80.5 per cent of Australian business leaders believe soft skill development is very or extremely important.


However, the survey also highlights that despite 51.9 per cent of Australian businesses allocating more than $1,000 per employee on a total learning and development budget, in 2019 it is predicted that 43.6 per cent will invest less than $500 per employee in soft skills training.


CEO of AIM, Ben Foote said; “The AIM survey results highlight that Australian leaders understand the need for soft skills, yet many are not willing to invest in their own employees to help further their soft skills.”


In the survey, the top three skills employers were able to identify to be the most important soft skills are:

  • Communication – 75.6 per cent of responders
  • Leadership – 55 per cent of responders
  • Emotional intelligence – 52.2 per cent of responders


“Communication, Leadership, and Emotional Intelligence are the key to an organisations growth and are the soft skills that will help businesses be more competitive, to grow and to create a positive internal culture,” said Mr Foote.


“In the age of digital disruption, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the technical skills learnt one day can be obsolete the next. To thrive in a rapidly shifting landscape, organisations have no choice but to prepare their workforce for what the World Economic Forum has described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”


In the survey, only 5.3 per cent of Australian leaders feel very well equipped to assess soft skills, yet subjective assessment is overwhelmingly used when hiring with 96.1 per cent using interviews and 71.4 per cent using references.


“To create an innovative and agile workforce, leaders need to be better equipped to identify the necessary soft skills needed so they know where the investment in training should be made,” said Mr Foote.

According to Mr Foote, all employees in the organisation need to increase their soft skills to keep the business competitive.

“All employees at every level, will need to learn complex problem solving, people management, collaboration and resilience to navigate the constantly changing business world,” said Mr Foote.

The AIM Soft Skills Survey was completed by 360 Australian leaders (182 HR leaders and 178 Non-HR Leaders and was conducted by AIM in September/October 2018.

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