The Search and Competition for Soft Skills


The recent PwC Annual CEO Survey discussed one of the biggest perceived business threats – the availability of key skills. This threat ranked ahead of other things like the speed of technological change and changing consumer behavior, and 82% of CEOs in the US ranked it as the biggest concern. The level of concern varied geographically and by industry, with CEOs in communications, insurance and industrial manufacturing being some of the industries most concerned with the availability of key skills.

The skills that CEOs are finding the most difficult to source are ones that are considered soft skills, including problem-solving, leadership, adaptability and creativity and innovation. This is interesting, as the results point out, because of the growing use of technology to replace things previously done by humans. While a machine may be able to be able to do a task, it obviously lacks the human soft skills that were being brought into doing the task that cannot yet be replicated. Other skills such as digital or STEM skills were recognized as being important, but there is more demand for soft skills.

Finding these skills in candidates has also become more difficult, and don’t have any expectations for it to get easier. The survey also showed that 52% of CEOs plan on increasing their headcount within the next 12 months. This headcount is more likely to be fulltime employees as opposed to using contractors or freelancers to fill gaps. Another thing you should expect to see are companies changing their approach to sourcing talent within the next year. Some companies have already gotten started on this and have taken the first steps to developing a talent and recruiting strategy that will ensure that they have the skills and employment capabilities that they will need to sustain continued future growth.

If your organization doesn’t have a people strategy it should take a step back and evaluate the kind of skills your organization needs and how you plan on being able to source with a tighter talent pool. There are a couple of different approaches that companies are taking to try to be more flexible to be able to meet their talent needs.  One of the approaches that companies have been taking is to adopt technology and data analytics when hiring and managing their workforce and talent flow needs. Additionally, CEOs are more willing to move talent where they need it and to seek out the best talent regardless of geography or demographics. These may be items that your company needs to begin to think about and incorporate when evaluating your future talent strategy.