The Digital Industry Is Neglecting Soft Skills, And It’s A Problem


The latest research into management in the digital sector has revealed that 57% of managers feel the industry is suffering due to too much focus on hard skills. Clearly, something needs to alter to turn this on its head. Often, an unhappy workforce reduces productivity, which is a grave concern in an industry that employs 1.46m people across the United Kingdom alone and is forecasted to grow another 5.4% by 2020.

Soft Skills Are Overlooked In The Digital Industry

Well over half (69%) of digital managers feel that soft skills, such as empathy and communication, are overlooked compared to the hard skills that are required for more technical roles. Although technical roles are crucial to the success of these businesses, this is leaving a shortage in these companies of confident and well-rounded managers. In fact, nearly half of them lack confidence in their own skills, rating them just ‘average’ or below.

Communication is the quality that is considered most important when it comes to what makes a good manager – with well over half (65%) ranking this in their top three most important qualities. And in an industry that experiences regular and rapid volumes of change, communication within a team is understandably of vital importance. As a result, digital employers need to nurture soft skills effectively through training.

How Is This Affecting The Industry Overall?

Alarmingly, a quarter of managers feel that reserving training for technical roles over soft skill ones is hurting the digital industry as a whole.

In addition, 19% of managers find that the pace of the industry is making it difficult to keep up with the necessary skills. The digital world advances every hour of the day and in every corner of the earth, there is a new piece of technology or software being created making others obsolete. This, in turn, means that managers need to react and keep up with these changes – which poses an enormous challenge in itself. With new businesses, platforms, and digital professionals constantly working on improving and furthering the industry, it’s crucial to upskill employees and provide them with the training that they need.

And with nearly a fifth of digital managers believing the fast pace of the industry makes it challenging to keep up with necessary skills, it’s no surprise that there is a constant struggle when it comes to balancing training for both hard and soft skills.

So How Do We Fix This Problem, And Enable The Digital Industry To Thrive As It Should?

Increase emphasis on, and the quality of, training

It is abundantly clear, soft skills are important in achieving the bulk of forecasted digital growth. In order to develop these soft skills, more of a focus on training, away from that of a technical nature, should be prioritised. And access to training should be made easier for managers. Businesses must be aware that it is this training that will develop the great managers of the future – simply reserving training for technical roles is an oversight.

Build the importance of essential skills into the recruitment process
Rather than prioritising technical abilities in the recruitment of managers, businesses should consider recruiting specifically for those with a particular mindset. Good digital managers understand that how they treat their team can contribute to a happier and more motivated workforce, which in turn leads to a more productive business.

Make use of events
Manager conferences and hubs are a great place for managers and businesses to share and build on their soft skills in an allocated group setting. The recent evolution of webinars and online courses also means that managers can now be in control of their own learning – able to choose when, where and how to learn. In addition, the current culture of self-help means that many people listen to podcasts and read books on professional development in their own time – investing commutes, workout schedules and walking time to listening and improving their soft and hard skills.

The importance of recruiting and retaining quality managers in the booming digital sector cannot be stressed enough ; in an industry that is already suffering from a massive skills shortage, it’s vital that digital businesses prioritise this. And while technical abilities and hard skills are crucial (and we absolutely should be training emerging talent in these), the importance of soft skills can not be ignored.

Attitudes must now be re-aligned to optimise and develop the managerial talent that is already there, in order to pass on key soft and hard skills. Otherwise, we could be left with an unbalanced and under motivated workforce that is unequipped with the skills required to keep digital businesses growing as they should.