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Over two-thirds of business leaders in Britain (71%) consider people skills to be the most valuable asset for employees, according to new research from Oxford Open Learning Trust.

The YouGov survey of over 500 senior decision makers, commissioned to support the Profession Picker tool, looked into the soft skills that employers consider to be desirable when looking for new staff to join their business.

Distance learning provider Oxford Open Learning Trust created the Profession Picker tool to help adults thinking about a career change. Each year, the Trust serves learners that might need an extra qualification such as a GCSE or A Level in order to get their desired job and start a new career.

Top 5 skills overall business leaders see as valuable for employees to have are

  1. People skills (71%)
  2. Team working skills (70%)
  3. Strong, effective communication (68%)
  4. Good computer skills (66%)
  5. Basic maths skills (65%)

Networking skills was the least selected skill, suggesting businesses value this as least important.

The list of desired skills changed slightly in line with the size of business. Larger businesses consider team working skills (79%) and people skills (73%) as the most valuable skills for employees to have.

Almost half (46%) of managers and owners of large businesses see creativity as a valuable skills for an employee to have, compared to 38% in medium sized businesses.

Dr Nick Smith, courses director and founder of Oxford Open Learning Trust, said: “It’s interesting to see which skills business leaders see as the most valuable for potential employees joining their business to have. It’s definitely positive news for those considering a career change, as adult learners will already have picked up many of these qualities in previous roles, while school leavers or graduates are yet to develop these soft skills.

“Hopefully, it’s given some insight on what to highlight on your CV and application form and what potential employers are looking out for. I think interpersonal qualities rate more highly than general business skills as these are things that can’t be taught and should definitely be mentioned when applying for jobs.”

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