That's according to research commissioned by McDonald’s UK, which found that 97 per cent of employers see soft skills as being key to business success.
However, a third had no assessment of the skills during appraisals and almost half failed to take them in to account when considering an employee for promotion.
As a result business leaders, including the CBI and entrepeneur James Caan, have called for a formalised framework for soft skills training to be put in place in order to avoid a major staffing crisis.
The hospitality industry is set to be one of the worst affected, with research indicating that over 61,000 employees in the foodservice and accommodation sector will exhibit poor performance due to a lack of skills such as communication and teamwork by 2020.
One in five UK employees feel unable to describe their soft skills to an employer and half have never included them in their CV, despite 70 per cent of employers polled saying that they look for soft skills when recruiting.
Employers must do more
McDonald's report called on business to ‘step up to the plate’ to tackle the crisis.
“There’s more to do to make sure our workforce develops the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly complex global economy,” it argued.
“Businesses need to provide opportunities for development so employees can be as effective as possible, and continue to raise awareness of the importance of soft skills for the future of the economy. Leaders need to role-model behaviours, as well as make the link clear between soft skills and performance.
“By stepping up to the plate, UK employers will not only support and develop our current workforce; they’ll also create the conditions that will allow future generations - and our future economy - to thrive.”
The study comes as new research from Development Economics has revealed that strong soft skills can boost an individual’s lifetime earnings by up to 15 per cent.
“Just telling people that soft skills are important isn’t enough – the key is to make the link between developing soft skills and a ‘return’ to the individual,” said the report.
McDonald’s report outlined four key recommendations for tackling the crisis:
• Creating a user-friendly soft skills framework for individuals and organisations to apply to themselves and their hiring processes.
• Embedding soft skills in to the school curriculum
• Improving links between the business, education and youth sector, making mentoring and work programmes easier to access.
• Encouraging greater cohesion between the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Work and Pensions to allow the importance of soft skills to shape future policy.
The company is leading a group including ForceSelect, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE), CIPD and the Association of Colleges to put the recommendations in to action.
It is set to issue a tender to academic institutions to formally develop a user-friendly framework for the development and evaluation of soft skills.
“Economic conditions mean today’s business environment is more competitive than ever, and we need people with the right skills to stay ahead of the widening productivity gap,” said entrepreneur James Caan CBE.
“It’s time for employers, government and educators to take action to recognise, promote and improve them. If we succeed, the prize is worth more than £109 billion to the UK economy by 2020, and it will make a real difference to the careers and lives of millions of people.”