Examining the financial costs of the shortage in soft skills

According to a Deloitte Access Economics report, soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to the less than 50% recorded in 2000.

Arinya Talerngsri, Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC, and a life-long promoter of leadership skills for C-level executives in Thailand, says HR must do more to promote soft skills in the workplace.

“A failure to act on soft skills development is increasing costs for businesses everywhere,” he tells Chief of Staff Asia. “It is estimated that miscommunication alone costs USD 62.4 million a year in large global corporations. In a small, 100-person organisation, the figure is still USD 420,000 annually — I don’t think any company can afford that.”

Talerngsri says the development of highly transferable soft skills creates an environment where staff feel capable. As a bonus, today’s leaders can establish a sustainable, long-term strategy for employee skill development that ensures increased retention and employee satisfaction.

The challenge, according to Development Asia, a learning initiative at the Asia Development Bank, is how to improve soft skills and work-based learning at every level and adopt some of the characteristics of structured programs to enhance informal training. Supported initiatives across multiple sectors have positive flow-on effects that may extend beyond the relatively small formal sector and reach out to SMEs which dominate the region.

Filling the gaps in the workplace

The Building Agility With a Contingent Workforce Workforce Insights Report 2022 by PersolKelly, found that training and upskilling has been the second most popular strategy to fill gaps in the workforce this year. 54% of respondents indicated that to widen their workforce’s scope and cope with evolving demands, upskilling was an essential element of their Learning and Development strategy.

Employers who are laser-focused on developers, digital marketers and other tech professionals will have to adjust their target somewhat by retraining workers to meet this demand and achieve scale.

In a recent Fortune interview Mona Mourshed, CEO of Generation: You Employed, and Michael Fung, Deputy Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore, said that Asia was in the process of upgrading and rewiring its education infrastructure. However, that is unlikely to be enough to meet current demand.

“To effectively address this skills gap, Asia, like the rest of the world, must get much better at quickly and efficiently reskilling mid-career individuals, those aged 40 and above, for technology roles,” they wrote.

Also, upskilling an existing employee is far cheaper than hiring a new one. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report found that 79% of L&D professionals not only concurred with this fact, but emphasised that by prioritising internal mobility, companies give themselves the best chance of making progress amidst significant changes in the business landscape.

Increased reliance of part-timers

Covid-19 saw the reliance on the contingent workforce – freelancers and consultants not on permanent contracts – grew considerably. Indeed, 48% of the respondents to the Persolkelly report admitted to engaging recruitment agencies for IT, Hi-Tech, Healthcare, Banking, Insurance, Government Agencies, Manufacturing, and Professional Services sectors.

Despite the pandemic dissipating, there is a strong likelihood that temporary workers are here to stay. If that is the case, L&D programs for contingent workforce will require implementation. Training short-term workers could be a two-way street, with the individual and company receiving vital learning and development opportunities. Of course, many contingent workers are now highly skilled in specialised areas, where they are increasingly seen by businesses as part of the mainstream workforce and not secondary to full-timers.

Setting up a contingent worker training programme could greatly benefit a world of mobile and highly agile workforces. As Robert Moffat, Senior Vice President of Corporate Solutions for the Americas, Hays Talent Solutions, noted at a Staffing Industry Analysts’ Contingent Worker Summit (CWS) in Singapore, the prevalence of these programmes is increasing.

“As reflected by other members at the summit, specialist ‘Contingent Worker Management’ functions and professionals that manage them are becoming more common,” he said.

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Chief of Staff Asia