Overcoming the soft skill challenge

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1 Overcoming the soft skill challenge

2 SOFT SKILLS Soft skills are worth almost 8bn to the retail and food services markets???? 122,000 workers in retail and food services in the UK will be held back by a lack of soft skills Four of the top five skills applicants are reported as lacking are soft skills Of those hospitality and tourism businesses with hard to fill vacancies:? of hospitality and tourism businesses experiencing gaps 61%in customer handling skills of businesses with skills gaps report a loss of 26%business to competitors

3 Four of the top five skills applicants are lacking are soft skills 1, a shortage that is increasing the challenge of recruitment for employers, with hard to fill vacancies having risen by 12% between 2011 and Coupled with this, soft skills gaps in the existing workforce are affecting businesses ability to complete, with 61% of hospitality and tourism businesses experiencing gaps in customer handling skills, resulting in 26% of those businesses reporting a loss of business to competitors. 2 Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, be they customers or fellow team members and they are closely associated with emotional intelligence. These soft skills are critical to the sector, we can t have an effective workforce without them and there are different opinions about whether they need to be recruited or can be developed. So what s the extent of the problem? Given the importance of soft skills to a people-oriented- sector like hospitality and tourism, the impact of businesses not having sufficient numbers of staff with soft skills is staggering. It is estimated that soft skills are worth 88bn to the UK economy and almost 8bn to the retail and food services markets alone. 3 Soft skills account for four of the top five skills that applicants are reported as lacking. Of those hospitality and tourism businesses with hard to fill vacancies, 55% say that applicants don t have the relevant customer handling skills they are seeking, 53% cite a lack of planning and organisational skills, 51% oral communication skills and 44% team work. 4 However, the problem of a lack of soft skills is not simply confined to applicants, as many of the existing workforce are also not able to demonstrate these skills. Customer handling skills is the most common skill gap, reported by 61% of hospitality and tourism businesses. This obviously has an impact on a business ability to compete. 54% of businesses reporting these skills gaps believe it impacts on the workload of existing staff, 35% of employers report an impact on meeting quality standards and 26% report a loss of business to competitors. 5 1 Employer Skills Survey (2013), UKCES 2 Employer Skills Survey (2013), UKCES 3 The Value of Soft Skills to the UK Economy: a report prepared for McDonalds UK (January 2015), Development Economics 4 Employer Skills Survey (2013), UKCES 5 Employer Skills Survey (2013), UKCES 3

4 These figures are concerning as a recent report by Development Economics, commissioned by McDonalds UK, warns that in five years time more than 122,000 workers in retail and food services in the UK will be held back by a lack of soft skills. This compares to almost 53,000 workers in the health and social care sector, and almost 41,000 in professional services. 6 Other research has also identified the importance of soft skills. Recently, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) 2015 Learning to Work Skills survey found that the top three key skills that employers were concerned about developing in young candidates during their first year in the job were: communication (64 per cent); teamwork (60 per cent) and confidence (45 per cent). Also frequently cited were time management (45 per cent), business awareness (26 per cent) and problem-solving (20 per cent). 7 Why it s a particular challenge for the hospitality and tourism sector The problem of applicants lacking soft skills has become more acute as the economy has picked up. During the recession, the hospitality and tourism sector was one of the few sectors to recruit in significant numbers and as a result was able not only to attract more applicants, but also higher skilled applicants. However, in the past two years there have been fewer applicants for sector vacancies. As a consequence, the number of vacancies sector businesses considered to be hard-to-fill, rose by 12% between 2011 and Similarly, the number of vacancies that were considered skill shortages rose by 10% between 2011 and The challenge for the sector is being able to compete in a competitive job market when it is associated with much higher numbers of zero hour contracts, less visible career progression opportunities and comparatively low pay levels. The other challenge is that a lack of soft skills is often associated with younger people and as we have previously reported, the hospitality and tourism sector employs three times the proportion of year olds than the economy as a whole, with 34% of the workforce being under Businesses are increasingly recognising a lack of soft skills in younger applicants. A recent survey showed that over half of the employers questioned (57%) said that young people lack basic soft skills, such as communication and team working. 9 6 The Value of Soft Skills to the UK Economy: a report prepared for McDonalds UK (January 2015), Development Economics 7 Learning to Work (March 2015), CIPD 8 Research Insight: Will recruiting younger workers soon become a thing of the past? (2014), People 1st (online link) 9 Labour Force Survey, (2014), Office for National Statistics 4

5 Another report suggests that there are contrasting perspectives on soft skills among young people and employers. 10 It found that young people entering the labour market recognised that employers sought soft skills such as the ability to communicate well, remain motivated, and to show initiative. They also understood that qualifications alone could not be relied upon to secure employment. Most young people cited in the report believed they possessed such generic skills, having gained them at school, college and/or university. Conversely, the majority of employers questioned believed that young recruits lacked these skills. The report proposes that the workplace is where employability skills such as soft skills are best acquired. However, the report also notes that employers believe schools need to play a greater role in preparing young people for employment. The hospitality and tourism sector has never had a strong qualifications culture, with personality and experience consistently being valued over and above qualification attainment. The sector has prided itself on being able to offer fantastic career opportunities for those with the right personality and drive. However, the evidence suggests that the number of candidates with these types of skills is becoming increasingly challenging. What are hospitality and tourism businesses doing to tackle a lack of soft skills? Sector businesses are tackling the problem of a lack of soft skills in different ways: Through recruitment For many businesses, recruiting migrant workers is not simply something they are forced to do owing to a lack of British applicants, but something they choose to do because they are perceived to have better softer skills than many UK applicants. Currently, a quarter of the hospitality and tourism workforce are migrant workers. 11 Other businesses place a lot of emphasis on interviews or selection centres to get people with the right personalities for their business. These often revolve around team tasks, role play and scenario testing. Other businesses ask applicants to audition in order to demonstrate their soft skills. Businesses can also consider working with a training provider that offers the Employment 1st training programme, to recruit candidates that have successfully completed the course and have proven they are job-ready. Developed with support from employers, the programme gives candidates the basic knowledge to start their career in our industries. 10 Young people entering work: A review of the research (2012), ACAS 11 Research Insight: Migrants in the hospitality industry (2015), People 1st (online link) 5

6 Training and development Some businesses are also placing significant attention on their induction programmes to ensure that the first 6-8 weeks can develop the critical skills of new entrants and test them in key scenarios that they will be encountering in their jobs. Other employers tackle softer skills through development opportunities, in particular through customer service training that develops the essential skills and behaviours of employees to deliver high customer service skills. Quality training programmes, like the successful WorldHost programmes, help employees reflect about their own experiences of good and bad service, understand why their role has such an impact on your customers experience, and learn vital communication and listening skills that will set them up for success. Further information Employment 1st Employment 1st is a training programme that prepares people for their first role in the service industry. Developed with support from employers, the programme gives candidates the basic knowledge to start their career in our industries. Businesses can either offer Employment 1st as part of their induction training, or they can work with a training provider that already offers the programme to recruit candidates that have successfully completed the course and have proven they are job-ready. Find out more at: WorldHost WorldHost is a suite of training programmes that helps develop essential customer service skills from making the right first impression through to creating an outstanding customer experience and, as a result, drive sales. The courses also include meeting a range of different customer needs including customers with disabilities, and those from different cultures. The training is dynamic, interactive, and helps people learn to deliver a service that customers will value, remember and want to experience again. Find out more at: 6

7 About People 1st People 1st is the skills and workforce development charity for employers in the hospitality, tourism, leisure, travel, passenger transport and retail industries. For more research and policy insight reports and to find out how we can help support your recruitment, training and talent management, visit E W Member of:

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