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Soft skills are in demand. How do you develop them?

In industries such as engineering, you need technical skills to keep things from falling apart – quite literally. However, soft skills are the glue that keep workplaces from crumbling. Here’s how one HR expert bridges the gap at a top engineering firm.

Engineering has a reputation for focusing on technical skills, but the soft skills are just as important, says Jacob Grech, the human resources director, Asia Pacific, for design and engineering consultancy Arcadis. Ten years ago, the company decided to transition to a more client-focused organisation. As a result, Grech and his team were tasked with developing soft skills in a workforce that previously had little experience with them.

To make this happen, Grech reached out to employees to get their buy-in and make the case for why developing this new area of expertise would elevate the business. Data he and his team gathered showed how becoming more client-focused would have a positive impact on the organisation in terms of revenue, but also the services they provided and business relationships.

As the changes gained traction, measurement became another focus. How do you measure soft skills? “We just look around us,” Grech says. The shift in mindset has even changed how the company hires – they now want employees who can balance their technical knowledge with people skills. “Our clients are demanding that, and our managers are looking for that skill set now when hiring,” he says.

Watch his interview with leadership development expert Ricky Nowak and gain more insights into how you can emphasise and teach soft skills in your organisation, plus what Grech says is the most important indicator of success for development initiatives.


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