CEOs Believe ‘Soft Skills’ Are More Important Than ‘Hard Skills’ for Their Business

The majority of CEOs believe megatrends matter, but most of the skills required for their business to respond to global megatrends are new skills that they neither appreciate or use today, according to a new paper released from The Economist Corporate Network (ECN), Skills 4.0: How CEOs shape the future of work in Asia.

The report states that skills are an essential resource in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. With the unprecedented economic developments in Asia and the dramatic changes rattling through many industries, companies need to ensure they are ready to embrace the disruptions and fend off potential skills gaps and talent shortages.

The driving forces behind these changes are a series of global megatrends, including demographic change, climate change, technological progress, urbanization, globalization as well as the digitization of the economy and the convergence of industries. Some are seen as opportunities and others as threats.

“Megatrends matter,” said Florian Kohlbacher, Director of the Economist Corporate Network North Asia and author of the report. “Executives are increasingly gearing up to face the challenge of strategically managing the business responses to these megachanges.”

But according to the survey, only a small number of CEOs are confident that their company is completely prepared to deal with these trends.

It has also become obvious that the key skills required in the future are soft skills, including problem solving, co-ordinating with others and people management, with 71.9% of the surveyed CEOs believing that soft skills are more important than hard skills for their business.

Hard skills included computer programming and machinery operations. The key challenges that CEOs face when trying to shape the future of work are: communication of the skills management strategy, getting the right structures in place, and time constraints.

The survey findings also show that 90% of CEOs claim to be personally involved in making sure their company has the right skills, however only 4% said that this was not the case. More involvement is seen as crucial.

“CEOs will have to reconsider the priorities to make sure their businesses are staying ahead of the curve. Time constraints are obviously a classic conundrum for executives.

“But given the rising importance of megatrends, megachanges and skill development, it’s about time that CEOs break these time constraints and become more actively involved in these strategically important decisions,” added Kohlbacher.

Managing the business responses to these trends and developing the organization’s human capital to equip them with the skills needed in this environment is a key challenge for businesses.

The skills required are likely to comprise of both soft and hard skills, including people, technological and business skills. While hard skills can be more easily acquired, and often conveyed through in-house training, soft skills are much more difficult to build.

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