Private companies remain concerned over talent shortage

16 January 2018

Over a fifth of private companies say an emergent talent shortage is a top concern for their operations. While employers are increasingly bullish about their prospects, with around two thirds expecting revenue increases, a combination of a lack of access to skilled workers, and rising commodity prices, were noted as key risks.

The global economy is increasingly in sync, with 45 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, all found to be in a period of expansion. Global growth has increased to 3.6% for 2017, while this is projected to increase to 3.7% next year.

Unsurprisingly, private companies are increasingly positive about their prospects, according to a new report from Deloitte. The study, titled ‘Global perspectives for private companies’, took in the opinions of more than 1,900 executives across 30 countries. Respondents in most regions expressed confidence about their revenue growth, profit and gross profit margins. In the EMEA region, 66.4% expected their revenues to increase, while a further 20.9% foresee sustained stability. Gross profit margins were also said to be on the increase among the EMEA region respondents, at 51.8% expecting a positive result, while 63.5% forecast an increase for profit .

Revenue growth and confidence levels

The respondents are relatively bullish on revenue growth for the coming 12 months, with the majority of EMEA respondents (58%) projecting growth of between 1-25%, around a quarter (22.6%) between 26% and 50%, and a staggering 14.7% of respondents projecting growth of between 51-100%. Given the strong outlook for revenue and profit, EMEA respondent countries are largely very confident (45.6%) or extremely confident (16.1%) about their future. This is even in light of the wider geopolitical concerns in Europe, such as Brexit, and more global concerns around geopolitics.

Talent trouble

When it comes to risks for company growth, varying factors were selected by respondents. For EMEA respondents, the ability to hire and retain employees was the most commonly cited factor, at 21.8% of respondents, although the cost of commodities followed closely at 21%. This result was backed by another recent survey from Deloitte’s Big Four rivals, PwC. Researchers at the professional services giant found that of 300 UK-based small businesses, nearly a fifth see skill shortages as the biggest barrier to productivity in their workforce. While SMEs placed great importance on STEM capabilities (24% felt these were in short supply), a further 37% said that resilience, adaptability and interpersonal skills are most lacking in new recruits, suggesting that employers in the UK, at least, are just as concerned about a soft skill shortage as they are by one in science or mathematics – thanks to a rapidly shifting market in a quickly automating world.

Other areas of risk in Deloitte’s survey included competition from market disruptors, trade barriers, and geopolitical uncertainties. The areas of least concern for EMEA respondents were the uncertain economic outlook of their home countries, access to financing, and lack of investment in innovation/research & development.Risk to company growth coming 12 monthsIn terms of the top two strategies that EMEA companies will use for growth in the coming 12 months, productivity increases were the most cited, at 35.3% of respondents, followed by growing existing markets, at 32.8% of respondents. The development of new products and services, meanwhile, was cited by 31.9% of respondents while entry into foreign markets stood at 22%. Digital transformation was, interestingly, relatively less cited at 18.6% of respondents.

Commenting on the results, Ira Kalish, Chief Global Economist at Deloitte, said, “Most global economies are stable or accelerating and the companies are all experiencing this, seeing improvement in the economic conditions in their home markets. Those exposed to the global economy are seeing strength reflected in their overseas sales as well.”



Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.