How health and safety professionals can become soft skill rock-stars

9th September 2019

Soft skills are not nice-to-have fluffy extras. Ask any savvy business leader. They’ll tell you that these talents are some of the modern workplace’s most sought-after qualities.

In fact, in a recent Global Talent Trends report, 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. And 89% said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack critical soft skills. It makes you wonder then, if these skills are so vital to the innovation and success of a business – even in the most technical fields – why they’re so often overlooked.

Take health and safety. When it comes to performance and results, more organisations than ever, are demanding significant change. Which is a giant step forward. But, there’s a stumbling block. Developing highly effective health and safety business partners hasn’t always been a priority for organisations. Often viewed, or treated, as technical experts capable of working in isolation to the rest of the organisation – their soft skills were rarely focused on as a development area. Their effectiveness then, in delivering the desired change being pursued by businesses, was somewhat hampered.

Without the development of soft skills – or, these people or power skills, as some prefer to call them – what you actually end up with are health and safety professionals who are well equipped to engage with their field of study peers – but not a diverse group of stakeholders. And yet, whenever, I’m asked to investigate a sudden deterioration in health and safety results, the most common element is a failure in people skills. What we absolutely need to do, is develop these professionals so that they can leverage their technical expertise and be thought of as valued key players in the creation of high performing organisations.

Our approach is to create development centres for health and safety professionals to hone their interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, so that they can engage, encourage and influence others at work – as well as becoming highly effective enablers of change. Using case study materials, we ask them to take part in a diverse group of interactions – including role play, individual presentation and self-review. What we’re doing is creating a baseline of strengths and opportunities as a starting point for personal development. And it’s working.

If you want to engage and influence business leaders and senior managers like a soft skill rock-star, then citing The Health and Safety at Work Act, is unlikely to cut it. What will make you more credible, is sharpening both your hard skills and soft skills so that they’re working in concert with one another. Being able to articulate your points skilfully, clearly and with authority is what will win you your fans.

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