In the era of artificial intelligence or block chain technology one would think that coding or computer programing are the most valuable job-related assets one could possess. Although the importance of hi-tech skills is growing, today’s employers are faced with the lack of candidates who have soft skills. The ability to work with people and technology together is a formula success in most work environments. The complex nature of new technologies require from employees both developed technical skills and the so called soft skills such as communication skills, team work, flexibility and problem-solving skills. Nevertheless, a 2016 Job Skills Report by Bloomberg, based on the answers of 1,251 job recruiters at 547 companies, found that the skills that are desired, but difficult to find among potential employees are exactly those ones classified as “soft”.
Millennials—the generational demographic cohort born between the early 1980s and early 2000s—are the most technological generation ever. Moreover, this generation is attracted by the so called “STEM” careers (science, technology, engineering, and math), which require complex technical skills. However, when it comes to the possession of soft skills, Millennials often show their shortage and this has proved to be very frustrating for employers. Many studies have shown that new graduates—despite being well equipped with technical knowledge and skills—lack soft skills. A recent study (McKinsey, 2017) has found that 40% of employers declared to have difficulties to fill vacancies due to the fact that the youngest workers are little endowed with soft skills such as communication, team work and punctuality. Another survey (PayScale 2016) reveals that managers highlight good writing skills, public speaking skills and critical thinking/problem solving as the competences that are difficult to find among Millennials.
This alleged shortage of interpersonal capabilities of Millennials can be explained by the technological advancement and the massive use of social media which are detaching young people from direct personal contact. The employment of electronic devices as a means of communication have drastically affected the capacity to connect on a human level. This can cause misunderstandings and inefficiencies at the work place, and the tendency of some employees to isolate themselves from the rest of the group and create small opposing fractions, instead of nourishing harmonious relationships within the team. This is why human resources managers are increasingly looking for candidates with developed communication skills.
How could we improve soft skills of future generations? Education could have a major role in this process, although specific training focused on the developing of soft skills are still almost inexistent within traditional degree programs. However, there is still no need to add new disciplines, but to adapt didactic methods to the model of experiential learning, which is able to combine knowledge acquisition with an increase in transversal competencies. Moreover, programs aimed at the facilitation of transition from school/university to the world of work would be an ideal context for the implementation of these novel didactic methods.