FINANCE

The Growing Importance of Soft Skills in Financial Services

Three things to ask your management team and accounts payable vendor to overcome your AP challenges

Coorp academy’s Jean-Marc Tassetto explains why it is necessary to nurture soft skills in today’s financial services industry and why BNP Paribas has become a pathfinder 

‘Soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important in the financial services sector which is contending with disruptive business models from non-traditional players such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, as well as digital transformation and growing demands from customers who expect a seamless omnichannel experience.

Jean-Marc Tassetto

Jean-Marc Tassetto

‘Soft skills’ are essentially interpersonal or people skills. They basically help people interact in the workplace and with customers and external stakeholders, including decision making capabilities, effective communication skills, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, collaboration, relationship development and so forth. Such skills are an essential pre-requisite when it comes to leadership development. They can help engage employees in digital transformation programmes, for example, and inspire innovation. Soft skills can help enhance all areas of an organisation. Leaders with good soft skills can motivate teams which can translate into improved customer service and better sales.

New digital strategies are dependent on soft skills. Cognitive and emotional empathy skills, for example, are important in understanding people’s attitude to change, driving business strategies and transforming processes. According to Deloitte, soft skill intensive occupations will account for two thirds of all jobs by 2030.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study sheds further light on the situation. As technology rapidly shifts the barriers between tasks carried out by humans and those by machines and algorithms it is pushing the global labour market through an era of phenomenal change. Proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the equation. Human skills such as initiative, persuasion, critical thinking and negotiation will increase in value alongside complex problem solving. Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence will also be in demand the study maintains. Why? Because automaton, artificial intelligence and robotics may be able to respond, analyse and predict against data they are fed– but they can’t deliver the empathy and compassion that a human is capable of.

The importance of interpersonal skills 

The key to success in the digital age is to ensure that employees acquire or are re-skilled in soft skills alongside the ‘hard skills’ training required for their roles. The most efficient way of doing this is to provide just-in-time, bite size training and to say goodbye to long, boring training sessions that are too general to be personalised and not at all engaging to today’s learner.

Is to say goodbye to long, boring training sessions that are too general to be personalised and not at all engaging to today’s learner.To make training relevant and exciting and deliver what the learning organisation of tomorrow needs, the learner also needs to be at the centre of the learning experience. We’ll do that by personalising her learning journey, offering content she really needs, but also stimulating her curiosity.

Modern workplace learning methods 

Linking learning with a fun experience is a good way of encouraging the development and practice of soft skills. This is because play and learning are both based on the desire to progress, to collaborate and to engage in a social experience. Neuroscience, for example, has shown us that play stimulates curiosity and the desire to progress. Engaging employees’ emotions will also capture their interest and help them retain more information.

A modern workplace learning experience should also be deeply integrated with a job position and directly useful to the learner. Modern workplace learning methods like microlearning are a powerful way to make this happen. At the same time, games, quizzes and videos as well as the contribution of wider communities of learners can encourage uptake. This approach is easily adaptable for dynamic market environments, which are experienced by the financial services industry.

 BNP Paribas Asset Management is an example of how these microlearning techniques, including pedagogical videos, online learning modules and games on a digital platform, can be used effectively.It has deployed this method across its entire global network to update the skills of its 12,000 strong workforce using a modern Learning Experience Platform. Feedback from employees has been extremely positive and the approach has been seen as much more user friendly than traditional online learning.

To assemble agile teams that can embrace and adapt to the change that today’s business world demands, financial services companies will need to put more emphasis on soft skills training. Otherwise, they will lose out to disruptive companies who understand the power of human understanding in the digital marketplace.

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