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Companies Need Managers with Soft Skills Now More than Ever

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At business school you learn more than technical skills. Programs typically place a large emphasis on developing your soft skills – but why are these important right now?

Through classroom case study discussions, business simulators, and team-based assignments, when you enter business school you will be working to develop skills that are essential in today’s workplace. Such skills include adaptability, problem solving, and communication.

Some schools offer specialist leadership development programs providing step-by-step training to help such soft skill development. Using our Program Finder tool, you can search for the schools that best suit your learning journey.

What are the soft skills that business leaders need?

A recent LinkedIn study revealed human-centered leadership traits are quickly becoming the most important factor in leading teams – and research shows that compassion and empathy are often the most important leadership characteristics. Compassionate leaders perform better and foster more loyalty and engagement among those who work for them.

Why? In times of crisis or uncertainty, we all feel heightened sensitivity and distress, which can lead to a loss of a sense of security and normalcy. Organizations whose leadership lack these essential soft skills cannot adequately manage these feelings.

Ultimately such leaders will not help their teams tap into the creativity and innovation needed to weather the storm or create a solid foundation for the future.

Empathetic leadership in a period of uncertainty

As organizations grapple inflation, economic uncertainty, job cuts, and the long-term impacts of COVID-19, empathetic leadership abilities rise on companies’ lists of required competencies for new management hires.

"Empathy as a skill is even more important to leadership in times of crisis,” says Abby Scott, assistant dean, MBA career management and corporate partnerships, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley.

“Having empathy for your employees and customers is critical, and I have to think going forward it will only grow in importance."

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) annual Corporate Recruiters Survey of more than 900 global corporate recruiters asked which of 20 specific skills are the most important for business school graduates to possess for their current job openings.

Overall, 61% identified interpersonal skills as important, making it one of the two most valued competency by recruiters across the globe – only learning, motivation, and leadership ranked higher.

In the context of the GMAC survey, interpersonal skills include the kinds of activities that are elemental to compassionate and empathetic leadership, including active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination, persuasion and negotiation, time management, and management of personnel resources.

The share of recruiters that ranked interpersonal skills as important to their current job openings increased significantly in specific regions, reaching as high as 76% among US-based recruiters. 

It also varied by industry, with 74% of recruiters in the consulting sector ranking interpersonal skills as important, higher than any other sector.

Employers expect demand for b-school grads with soft skills to increase

As many as 67% of corporate recruiters taking part in the GMAC survey said they expected to increase recruitment from b-school talent pools over the next five years. With interpersonal skills and the ability to motivate and lead the two most valued skills b-school grads can possess, the importance of soft skills is clear.

“There’s a growing consensus that soft skills are increasingly important,” says Dr Christine Menges, director of the MBA Career Center at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management.

“In a virtual world, it’s really vital that you’re able to emotionally connect with people to understand their needs and their psychology. Emotional intelligence, empathy, and other soft skills are essential to that.”

Business school is the ideal training ground for developing soft skills

Business school is typically a highly diverse environment. Surrounded by a cohort of students from a wide variety of professional and geographical backgrounds, you are forced to expand your cultural awareness and develop your interpersonal capabilities.

“In most MBA programs, students are placed into diverse small study groups and this is a real test for incoming students to figure out how to work with people they don’t know and who have different skillsets and backgrounds,” explains Abby Scott of Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley.

“Through that initial experience, students are forced to work out how they’re going to work together successfully. Things like teamwork, collaboration, empathy, learning to delegate – these things are immediately practiced in these small groups and MBA programs are structured to support that learning.”

Overall, 9 in 10 global corporate recruiters say they’re confident in graduate business schools’ ability to prepare students to be successful in their organizations. Are you ready to start your journey to business school?

There are more than 7,000 graduate business school programs for you to explore in Program Finder. Start the search for your best fit program today.