Lack of people skills of graduates concern for UK firms

03 June 2015

Businesses in the UK are struggling with a lack of people skills of graduates, caused by a perception gap on the subject, research by Hay Group shows. While businesses feel people skills are essential for their commercial impact and future leadership, the majority of graduates feel people skills are less important than technical skills, with many of them thinking the skills will prevent them from doing their job right. According to the firm, businesses should respond to this by engaging graduates and helping them develop the needed skills. 

HR consulting firm Hay Group recently released new research into the ‘people skills’ of graduates, titled ‘Are you unlocking your graduates’ potential?’, in which the firm highlights the business/graduate divide on the issue of people skills. For the research, Hay Group surveyed 150 professionals in the UK responsible for the recruitment and initial development of new graduate talent, as well as 150 graduates in the UK that have been in employment for 3-24 months.

Perception gap
The research shows that a big perception gap exists between businesses and graduates when it comes to people skills. While almost all businesses believe that strong people skills are important, with 93% saying they deliver commercial impact, more than half (51%) of graduates actually think people skills get in the way of getting ‘the job done’. Seven out of ten graduates believe they ‘just need to be good at their job’ and 61% believe that technical skills are more important than people skills on the work floor. 

Hay Group, UK people skills research

As a result of the perception gap, recruiting graduates with people skills turns out to be a challenge for UK businesses, with 90% saying that fewer than half of graduate applicants have sufficient people skills for the roles they are applying for and 77% admitting to have employed graduates without the necessary skills due to a lack of choice.

Commenting on these results, David Smith, Consultant at Hay Group, says: “It’s not that today’s graduates lack potential. In fact, psychometric assessment specialist Talent Q analysed data of over 40,000 employees worldwide and found that graduates have as much potential as senior managers for self-awareness, self-control and teamwork, and more potential for empathy. This potential needs to be realised, however. It’s now down to organisations to recruit and develop graduates in the right way, so they appreciate the role these ‘softer’ skills play in their own development and the value they offer to the business.”

Nurture people skills

Business implications
In the research, the firm explores the business implications of the people skills gap, with increased recruitment costs, compromised future leadership and staff development seen as pressing issues.

  • Recruitment costs: As the average cost for on-boarding per graduate is between £500-1000 and as 77% businesses feel that graduates are not ready for the job, many businesses risk wasted investment in recruitment processes and high staff turnover
  • Future leadership: Almost all (91%) of those in charge of graduate recruitment and development feel that graduates with less than good people skills will not be successful future leaders, with 77% currently worried for the future of leadership in their business.
  • People development: A divide exists between graduate expectations around promotions and the reality, with 89% of businesses saying that poor people skills hold graduates’ progression back; while 68% of graduates think they will be promoted regardless of their people skills.

To address the imbalance in people skills, 91% of businesses surveyed saying they provide adequate training to develop the people skills of graduates, with 83% spending more time on training graduates on teamwork than on technical skills. “It’s also about making the process as seamless for the employee and business as possible. Today there are tools such as smartphone applications and personality self-assessments to help organisations engage and develop graduates, to assist them with their own progression and job satisfaction, and to enable them to meet and exceed business leaders’ expectations,” concludes Smith. 

Hay Group’s Journey
To help businesses develop and nurture the needed skills, Hay Group launched its own app that helps graduates develop their emotional & social skills, its so-called Journey app.