Soft skills gap costs the UK economy £88 billion

By Paul Marshalsea, Client Relationship Manager at The Outward Bound Trust.

Babcock 1 CopyEmployability skills is not a new story. Getting young people ready for the world of work has had a lot of focus in recent years.

Skills such as team working, communication, time and self-management, decision making, problem solving, taking responsibility and interpersonal skills are behaviours that employers need. You may be forgiven for presuming that as the young people we are recruiting and developing have been through school and attended college or university that they will have these skills.

Yet findings by a group of major employers suggests that the lack of these skills in young people are costing the UK £88 billion[1].

But how are these soft skills causing a £88 Billion loss to the UK economy?

Research carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) suggests the following areas are where poor soft skills and work place behaviours are contributing to loss, through:

  • Increasing work load for other staff
  • Higher operating costs
  • Difficulties meeting quality standard
  • Difficulties introducing new working standards
  • Losing business or orders to competitors
  • Delaying development of new products or services[2]

I wonder how many of you have experienced this? Or have had more work piled on your desk as a direct result?

Within the VUCA landscape that we operate in, employees need to be more flexible and able to react to the complex situation around them. They need the confidence and resilience to get up when things go wrong, to challenge and question their own performance and that of others.

If this is the case, what are the things that we as individuals and employers should be doing to reduce the skills gap and increase the productivity of the UK economy?

UKCES is suggesting that employers are taking the some of the following actions to overcome these Skills Gap:

  • 68% increase in training activity / spend / growth of trainee schemes
  • 56% more supervision of staff
  • 46% more staff appraisals / performance reviews
  • 45% implementation of mentor and buddy Schemes

Ben Elmer-White from Babcock International Group argues that the behavioural aspects are crucial to the success of his business.

“Today we cannot purely rely upon the technical capabilities and skills of our people to deliver great performance. We need people who will embrace change, face complexity and meet challenges, and all within an ever changing and diverse landscape. We can only do that by supporting our people from a behavioural stance and creating a learning and development environment that enables personal growth and behavioural realisation to cope, flex and look beyond current problems to create sustainable and longer term solutions. Supporting technical capability with behavioural learning and development enables a far more resilient, flexible and tenacious workforce who are able to deliver to the challenges we face, promote brand and ethos and drive future business.”

Ben Elmer-White, Learning and Development Manager at Babcock International Group

If increasing training is an area for you then I would recommend checking out Emeline’s 10 top tips for choosing a training provider[3]. Her tips may help steer you in the right direction to find the provider that is right for you.

To see how The Outward Bound Trust are helping Ben to develop the behaviours of his apprentices have a read of this.


[1] The Value of Soft Skills to the UK Economy, a report prepared on behalf of MacDonald’s. January 2015 http://backingsoftskills.co.uk

[2] UKCES: UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey 2015: UK Results, February 2016, p 72