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Soft skills boost competitive edge

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The rules for remaining competitive in business are changing every day, yet some companies are still not embracing new trends and methods. It has long been said that the magic recipe for a successful business is talented, knowledgeable staff combined with innovative products.
But how is this achieved? Successful businesses like Google recognise that in order to remain ahead of their competitors, their staff need to know to handle different emotional situations and be able to relate on an empathic level to their customers and their fellow employees.
Premie Naicker, CEO of AIGS, says these ‘soft skills’ range from self-awareness, optimism and empathy, to being aware of what is going on around them, essentially skills aimed at boosting emotional intelligence (EI). “These elements are central to being part of a progressive business, and open the door to discussion, highlighting strengths and our ‘humanness’.”
She says that despite the obvious benefits of soft skills, most schools and universities do not teach students how to cultivate them. “We live in a world that measures intelligence through quantifiable metrics only. Soft skills are important and always have been, but we have pushed them aside to focus on credentials and expertise. This is highly unfortunate, as research has illustrated that EI matters more than IQ or any technical skills when it comes to job success. Factors such as self-control, commitment, integrity, self-confidence and suchlike, create more successful employees and therefore more successful organisations.”
She asks why, when it is so obvious that soft skills are needed in our businesses as much as technical skills, more companies aren’t focusing on cultivating them?
“Unfortunately, not every hire comes with all the soft skills needed to be a great leader or manager of people. People who are employed to build products or design services might get promoted to a managerial position, but while they might have been the best innovators and builders, they are now thrust into a role where they are managing people, work processes, relationships, office politics, and they are not equipped for this.”
Clever businesses look closely at what the attributes are that make their top managers so successful, and how they teach those to other managers. “The trick is to roll out a programme that will enable your managers and staff to learn and capitalise fast on their soft-skills competencies.”
According to Naicker, soft skills are the underlying advantage that make any business a leader when it comes to top customer service and professionalism. “This in turn boosts customer loyalty and retention. Today’s customers want more, they want it now, and they want it personalised. Soft skills are just not a tool a business can survive without.”
Remember, she says, when embarking on soft skills training, that all employees are not the same, so their soft skill strengths will vary too.  “Once you understand the different people and personalities you are working with, learn to leverage these differences and strengths, because these strengths will distinguish your company from its competitors.”
In addition to its existing product training, AIGS has therefore created an offering that will help companies access their employees’ soft skills. Working in conjunction with consultants to offer a wide range of training in order to provide a more holistic service to customers, AIGS will tailor-make a training solution that encompasses all of the areas identified by the company as important.
“At the heart of every business is its people. Prioritising soft skills in your organisation will take your business to new level, and will allow the human side to shine. Essentially you are only allowing your staff to do what comes most naturally to them, which is to be themselves. All businesses wishing to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace will find a way to bring soft skills in to training and leadership programmes, and will no doubt reap the rewards,” concludes Naicker.