The world is getting flat, said Thomas Friedman several years ago. It is true. The world is getting connected in ways never seen before. The world is moving from a hard-wired connected environment to a softer one.
We then see this impact of this changes to the expectation of people’s competence. When the world was not yet this flat, to get a technical qualification is almost about everything. Now, almost everyone agree that these hard skills are necessary, but won’t make any significant difference without soft skills.
It is convincing argument, and to a large extent, quite true. But, I do critically challenge myself to question the commonly accepted thesis that soft skill development is an investment. It is most likely an investment to each person who got developed, for sure. But I don’t think it is the same for the business, which actually fill the investor role.
When a business invest n improving hard skills, it is obviously about improving the behaviour that directly define the measurable working process, and also the productivity rate. Soft skill on the other hand is about some quality that is less tangible, and often times does not have direct impact to productivity. This is simply because soft skill can provide more value on the long run, on top of the core benefit provided by the technical skill. Soft skill is about competitive edge.
Thus, it is only fair to see that soft skill is avoiding cost of losing with competitor, the cost of losing future opportunities, or losing good people from within the organisation. Soft skill often times can speed up the process, cut risk and potential problems or keep up a trend that otherwise will decline if left alone to natural flow of things. All of this is not about adding value, actually. Rather, soft skill evidently shows how we can reduce or even avoid potential risk or cost, when managed properly.
So, I think it is would be wise to consider a different view here. Instead of trying to justify how soft skills development become a good business investment, we perhaps should try to define the true nature of it as a cost avoidance instrument.