Business coalition calls for focus on ‘soft’ skills with launch of new framework

Employer groups join together to create ‘shared language and understanding’ of essential skills, including listening and problem-solving

Leading businesses and employers groups are today launching a framework to help businesses identify and quantify transferable soft skills.

Created in light of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Skills Builder Universal Framework will create a structured way for employers to keep a record of the skills their workforce has learned and developed – including listening, problem-solving, staying positive, leadership and teamwork – to help bring those skills in line with education and work experience on their employees’ CVs.

The framework will help employers understand what skills gaps their organisations face – either through providing targeted training or recruiting new talent into the business.

Sir John Holman, chair of the Essential Skills Taskforce, the coalition of organisations behind the framework, said a lack of understanding was the biggest barrier to developing essential skills.

"For the first time, this universal framework gives us a shared language and shared understanding across education and across different workplaces to help employers to get the best from their workforce and to help people to better manage the points of transition in their lives," Holman said.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, which was also part of the taskforce, said for the first time the framework allowed HR professionals to measure skills development, a stumbling point for organisations for years.

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"We've had issues for a long time in how we describe and talk about skills, which makes it difficult to quantify and hampers both individuals and businesses that want to develop essential skills," Crowley said. "There needs to be a common language to give people a starting point and understand what these skills are."

Crowley added the increasing prevalence of automation, as well as the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, has emphasised the importance of ‘human’ skills within the workplace. "These skills help individuals and businesses to be resilient in the face of change, whether it's something as unsettling as this current environment or other crises," she said.

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at Business in the Community (BITC), another member organisation of the taskforce, said the framework could help employers look after individuals in their workforce at a time where the coronavirus outbreak is adding to insecurity.

"When you look at all the changes that affect individuals in terms of redundancies or furlough, there is a responsibility from businesses to develop these skills within their own businesses so they have the greatest commercial success in the future but also to support individuals to navigate the transition to work after this crisis," she said, adding that the soft skills covered in the framework were the ones that workers will be drawing on in the future when looking for work.

The framework was developed by a coalition of organisations including the CIPD, BITC, the Confederation of British Industry, the EY Foundation, The Careers & Enterprise Company, the Gatsby Foundation and The Skills Partnership.