"What are the secrets to business success?"
This is a question I get asked nearly every day from employers, employees and budding entrepreneurs, all looking to get ahead at work and learn from my experiences in the hope I hold the secret to success.
Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, there is no magic formula for success but there are definitely some ingredients and contributing factors that always take people by surprise, especially this one...
It's not just about qualifications. It's not just about education or background. How do I know? Because I didn't excel in either of these areas - instead, I actually put my own success down to something called soft skills - the vital skills such as communication, teamwork and time management which everyone needs to succeed at work and beyond.
When I left school at 16 I knew I couldn't rely on my academic qualifications to get me to where I needed to be because school wasn't for me - I wanted to get out there and work. Luckily, what I lacked academically, I made up for in soft skills and that gave me an edge when it came to starting my career.
Whilst I didn't have the traditional platform available to sell myself academically, I knew my communication skills, time management and decision making abilities would be the solid foundations for me to achieve my goals.
Early this year I joined forces with McDonald's as well as a host of businesses and employers to call for a wholescale re-evaluation of the value of soft skills.
Together we demonstrated the hard value of soft skills. We revealed for the first time that their value to the UK economy was worth approximately £88 billion today, predicted to increase to £109 billion during the next five years.
In fact, new research from Development Economics estimates that having developed soft skills can boost an individual's lifetime earnings by up to almost 15%.
Quite simply, soft skills are an asset that neither employers nor employers can ignore.
The response we had was phenomenal with over 60 businesses and individuals sharing their own experiences and ideas for soft skill global domination! This proved that as a nation, we understand the significance and effect that soft skills can have on our people and our businesses. The sad thing is, we're currently doing little about it and in turn, missing out on a wealth of opportunities to positively enhance our professional careers and enable the continued development of our economy.
This week we've seen a lot of rhetoric around the concept of productivity and the stagnant statistics we face in the UK. This got everybody wondering, how we can improve the productivity of staff? Why are we so behind and how can we catch up with other European countries who currently storm ahead of us? These are difficult questions to answer but one thing I'm sure will help immensely is the recognition of soft skills - making a real effort to invest in our people, making them feel like they are valued at work and giving them invaluable life skills which could help transform their career.
Through these discussions, we came up with four recommendations to really tackle the issue;
- Firstly, we need to create a user-friendly framework which allows employees and businesses to showcase and measure their soft skills - continually enabling the evaluation and development of a person's soft skills through their life stages
- Secondly, we need to embed soft skills into both curricular and non-curricular activities. Our schools should be highlighting where soft skills are being developed and help pupils effectively identify their acquired skills
- We need to improve the links between business, education and the youth sector to drive career education and expand access to mentoring and work experience programmes
- Finally, we need government to join us in recognising that soft skills are essential and should be gaining the appreciation they deserve
If we are able to implement these recommendations, we're taking the first step to unlocking hidden potential everywhere as well as aiding the growth of the UK economy, with a prize worth more than £109 billion to the UK economy by 2020. Employees; for you this could mean an extra 15% increase in lifetime earnings. Employers; this means more productivity from your staff and a business friendly, competitive economy.
I challenge you to give me a reason why you shouldn't join the movement. This is our chance to help change careers and lives of millions of people, don't get left behind.