Best practice

Taking a hard look at soft skills in Supply Chain Management

Paul Wiseman, Economics writer at the Associated Press writes that employers have “always needed people with specific technical skills. Those remain important, but employers want something more—the soft skills that determine whether recruits can get along with co-workers, articulate ideas, engage in critical thinking, and solve problems on the fly. In short, whether employees can make the transition from classroom to workplace.”

The interpersonal skills that promote and nurture strong relationships can have as direct an impact on supply chain performance as do the operational aspects of a business.

It's not easy to measure interpersonal performance, but there are ways to combine both hard operational metrics and soft interpersonal metrics to gain a more accurate look at their organizational performance. One of the tools used to measure soft skills is the "360-degree feedback" assessment which figuratively places an individual at the centre of a circle, and then gathers feedback from those in a position to observe the manager's performance: supervisors, direct reports, peers, customers, suppliers, and others. Most of the questions on such surveys will look at "soft" traits and skills, such as leadership, communication, ethics and integrity, relationship building, and decision making.

What is very interesting is that, when organisations start using tools such as the 360 degree feedback in addition to performance measures which require high degrees of technical skill, there is often little correlation between performance in areas requiring hard skills and those where soft skills will improve performance. Over time however the picture changes- once these soft skills measures are built into performance reviews it is quite amazing how people become more competent in these areas, either through undergoing training or through increased focus.

This amply bears out Tom Peters’ assertion that you can only manage what you measure.

Written by Charles Dey