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This blog post is inspired by a recent Coffee Mornings episode where Sam and Robbie delved into the significance of interpersonal skills, also known as “soft skills,” and proposed a shift towards calling them “people skills.” They shed light on the crucial role these skills play in the workplace and how they can influence professional connections.

View the discussion in detail below:

Why “soft skills” is a misleading term?

The term “soft skills” can be misleading as it may imply that these skills are less important than technical skills. Mastering people skills can lead to higher job satisfaction, better teamwork, and ultimately, increased productivity.

Sam and Robbie argue that the term “soft skills” does not accurately represent the importance of these abilities.

Robbie points out that the word “soft” has negative connotations and doesn’t seem as valuable as other skills. Sam agrees, stating, “Soft skills almost make it sound like it’s not as important.”

Instead, they propose that “people skills” is a more fitting term.

As Sam says, “It’s directed at how you ultimately interact with other human beings, which is exactly what the skills are all about.”

From this point on, this blog will refer to soft skills as people skills to emphasise the importance of renaming them. The term “people skills” more accurately reflects their true meaning and impact in the workplace.


People skills, historically referred to as soft skills, encompass a range of non-technical abilities that enable individuals to work effectively with others, communicate clearly, and adapt to change. The term “soft skills” was coined in the 1970s to differentiate these abilities from “hard skills,” or specific technical proficiencies. However, this distinction has led to a perception that people skills are less important or less challenging to learn than hard skills.

Traditionally, there has been a division between hard skills, which are typically learned through formal education or training, and soft skills, which are often considered innate or acquired through life experiences. This distinction has contributed to the misconception that people skills are easy to acquire or don’t require deliberate effort to develop. Sam and Robbie aim to dispel any misconceptions surrounding the concept of people skills and emphasise their relevance and importance. This is the fundamental message conveyed in both their discussion and this post.

“Soft skills are the most important skills that you can have in business.” – Sam Ingram , CEO

The importance of ‘people-skills’

The growing emphasis on collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence in the workplace has made people skills increasingly important. These skills are vital in building strong professional relationships, driving innovation, and fostering a healthy work culture. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report surveyed more than 4,000 professionals worldwide and found that 57% of them considered soft skills to be more important than hard skills. Additionally, the report identified leadership, communication, and collaboration as the most in-demand soft skills in the workplace.

In various industries, effective communication is critical in sharing information, giving clear instructions, and providing feedback. Sam sums it up accurately: as businesses are fuelled by people and relationships effective communication and relationship building is crucial for the successful operation of a business or for one to become a key player in the workplace.

“I think one thing I’ve learned is that in business, people are buying from people” – Sam Ingram, CEO

Another crucial people skill to develop is teamwork, as it significantly enhances productivity. The capability to collaborate effectively in a team setting is essential for success in the workplace.

“Being a good team player is about being able to work with other people, support them, and sometimes take a step back and let others take the lead.” – Sam Ingram , CEO

Other soft skills are; Problem-solving skills help employees address unexpected issues and develop effective solutions. Emotional intelligence is critical for understanding stakeholders’ emotional needs and providing appropriate support. Adaptability is essential for staying up-to-date with new tools, techniques, and industry trends. Time management is crucial for prioritising tasks and meeting targets. Conflict resolution skills are necessary for addressing workplace disputes and maintaining a positive work environment.

In their conversation, Sam and Robbie emphasise that these abilities are critical for professionals across industries and job functions and should not be considered secondary or supplementary to hard skills. Therefore, it is essential for employers to recognise the significance of these skills and offer opportunities for employees to develop and improve them. This investment can help ensure a positive and productive work environment, benefiting both the employees and the organisation.

The real challenge of mastering ‘people-skills’

While people skills are essential for success, they can be difficult to master. Developing interpersonal and emotional intelligence requires significant effort, self-reflection, and practice. It involves

understanding one’s own emotions, managing them effectively, and navigating social dynamics with empathy and sensitivity. Unlike technical skills, which can be learned through formal education or training, people skills are developed through experience and practice.

“People skills are very personal, so they can be hard to teach. It’s not like teaching someone how to code, where there’s a set of steps you can follow.” – Robbie Blake, Senior Recruitment Consultant

Learning people skills can be challenging due to their subjective nature and the need to adapt to different situations, contexts, and personalities. Unlike technical abilities, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mastering people skills.

The challenges faced in learning people skills

Some of the obstacles individuals might face while developing these skills include:

  1. Lack of awareness: Many people may not be aware of their shortcomings in soft skills or may underestimate their importance in personal and professional life. This lack of awareness can hinder the learning process.
  2. Limited resources: While there are abundant resources for learning hard skills, soft skills training can be harder to find or less structured, making it difficult for individuals to access appropriate guidance.
  3. Personal biases and mindset: People may have ingrained beliefs or attitudes that act as barriers to learning soft skills. For example, someone who believes they’re “not a people person” may struggle to improve their interpersonal skills because of this limiting mindset.
  4. Subjectivity and measurement: Unlike hard skills, soft skills are often subjective and can be difficult to quantify or measure. As a result, individuals may find it challenging to assess their progress or receive constructive feedback.
  5. Cultural differences: Cultural norms and expectations can influence the way soft skills are perceived and practiced. This can create challenges for individuals who work or interact with people from diverse backgrounds, as they may need to adapt their communication and behaviour accordingly.
  6. Time and patience: Developing soft skills takes time, practice, and patience. Since progress might be slower or less visible than with hard skills, individuals may become discouraged or lose motivation.
  7. Vulnerability: Learning soft skills often requires individuals to confront their insecurities, biases, and emotional triggers, making the process emotionally challenging and uncomfortable.
  8. Balancing hard and soft skills: Professionals may find it difficult to strike the right balance between improving their hard skills, which are often more directly related to job performance, and investing time in developing their soft skills.

The effort required to develop interpersonal and emotional intelligence

Some key aspects to consider when working on personal skills:


  1. Understanding personal emotions, strengths, and weaknesses
  2. Recognising triggers and patterns in emotional responses
  3. Developing a growth mindset and being open to change
  4. Reflecting on personal actions, reactions, and their consequences

Effort: Engaging in regular self-reflection, journaling, and seeking feedback from others.


  1. Managing emotions and reactions effectively
  2. Practicing self-control in challenging situations
  3. Developing coping mechanisms to deal with stress or emotional distress
  4. Adapting to changing circumstances and staying composed under pressure

Effort: Practicing mindfulness, meditation, or other stress-reduction techniques to improve emotional regulation.


  1. Setting and working toward personal and professional goals.
  2. Maintaining a positive attitude and perseverance in the face of obstacles.
  3. Understanding the factors that drive motivation and engagement.

Effort: Regularly evaluating progress, adjusting goals, and staying committed to personal development.


  1. Actively listening to others and understanding their emotions and perspectives.
  2. Demonstrating compassion and support in interactions with others.
  3. Recognising non-verbal cues and adjusting communication accordingly.

Effort: Practicing active listening, engaging in role-playing exercises, and developing curiosity about others’ experiences.

Social skills

  1. Building and maintaining healthy relationships with others
  2. Communicating effectively in various situations and with diverse audiences
  3. Collaborating and cooperating in team settings
  4. Resolving conflicts and negotiating effectively

Effort: Participating in group activities, seeking feedback on communication and teamwork, and refining interpersonal skills through practice and experience.

To summarise, developing soft skills is a challenging process that requires practice and experience. Unlike technical skills, people skills are subjective and cannot be taught through formal education or training. It is crucial to engage in self-reflection, manage emotions effectively, stay motivated, demonstrate empathy, and refine social skills to improve interpersonal and emotional intelligence. Underselling the efforts invested in developing these skills would not be fair. Therefore, it is necessary to advocate for the importance of people skills in personal and professional development.

Paradigm shift: Acknowledging the importance of people skills

Sam and Robbie encourage organisations and leaders to invest in ‘people-skills’ development. They propose integrating people skills training into professional development programs, fostering a well-rounded and adaptable workforce capable of navigating the complexities of the modern workplace. They also advocate for a change in terminology that accurately reflects the significance and effort required to develop these skills, promoting the use of the term “people skills” instead of the misleading label of “soft skills.”

Here are some suggestions on how to incorporate soft skill training effectively:

⦁Assess current skill levels: Begin by assessing employees’ current soft skill levels through surveys, performance reviews, or 360-degree feedback. This will help identify the areas that need improvement and provide a baseline for measuring progress.

⦁Set clear objectives: Define clear objectives for the people skills training program, such as improving communication, collaboration, or problem-solving abilities. Ensure that these objectives align with the organisation’s overall goals and values.

⦁Customise training: Tailor the training content to meet the specific needs of employees, taking into account their roles, responsibilities, and the unique challenges they face. This may involve offering different training modules for various departments or job levels.

⦁Use varied learning methods: Incorporate diverse learning methods, such as workshops, seminars, online courses, role-playing exercises, and group discussions, to cater to different learning preferences and keep participants engaged.

⦁Offer experiential learning opportunities: Provide opportunities for employees to practice and apply their soft skills in real-world situations. This can include team-building exercises, cross-functional projects, or mentoring programs.

⦁Encourage peer learning and feedback: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement by encouraging employees to share their experiences, offer constructive feedback, and learn from one another.

⦁Provide ongoing support and resources: Offer resources and support for employees to continue developing their soft skills beyond the training program. This may include access to online resources, books, or opportunities to attend conferences and workshops.

⦁Monitor progress and evaluate success: Regularly assess the effectiveness of the people skills training program by tracking employees’ progress and gathering feedback. Adjust the training content and delivery methods as needed to ensure continuous improvement.

⦁Recognise and reward progress: Acknowledge and celebrate employees’ efforts and achievements in developing their soft skills. This can help motivate them to continue investing in their personal and professional growth.

⦁Integrate soft skills into performance evaluations: Incorporate soft skills as a key component of performance evaluations, emphasising their importance in employees’ overall success and career advancement.

Here are some key advantages of investing in development of people skills:

⦁Improved communication: Developing strong communication skills enhances the flow of information, reduces misunderstandings, and facilitates effective collaboration, leading to increased productivity and better decision-making.

⦁Stronger teamwork: When employees possess effective interpersonal skills, they can work together more cohesively and efficiently, fostering a positive work environment and enabling organisations to achieve their objectives more effectively.

⦁Enhanced problem-solving and decision-making: Employees with well-developed soft skills can analyse complex situations, approach problems creatively, and make informed decisions, leading to better overall performance and reduced risk for the organisation.

⦁Increased adaptability: As the business environment evolves, employees with strong soft skills can more easily adapt to change, embrace new technologies, and navigate uncertainty, ensuring the organisation remains resilient and competitive.

⦁Better employee engagement and retention: When organisations invest in soft skill development, employees feel valued and supported in their personal and professional growth. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and retention, reducing the costs associated with employee turnover.

⦁Improved leadership: Soft skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and conflict resolution are crucial for effective leadership. Developing these skills can help cultivate a new generation of leaders who can inspire, motivate, and guide their teams to success.

⦁Greater innovation: When employees possess strong people skills, they can more effectively collaborate, share ideas, and think creatively, contributing to an innovative organisational culture that drives growth and success.

⦁Competitive advantage: In an increasingly automated and technology-driven world, organisations that prioritise people skill development can differentiate themselves from competitors and better serve their customers.

⦁Long-term success: By investing in people skills, organisations can build a more agile, resilient, and successful workforce, laying the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity.


In conclusion, Sam and Robbie have discussed the importance of people skills, the challenges in mastering them, and the need for a paradigm shift in how we perceive and value these essential abilities. By using the term “people skills” instead of “soft skills,” we can help to dispel misconceptions and acknowledge the real effort required to develop these competencies.

They encourage you to reconsider your perception of people skills and recognise the true effort behind mastering them. Embrace the journey of personal and professional growth that comes with developing these crucial skills and strive to become a more well-rounded, adaptable, and successful professional.

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, soft skills are more important than ever before. They enable employees to adapt to change, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others. As the paradigm shift towards valuing soft skills continues, companies that prioritise them will be better equipped to build high-performing dream teams and achieve success in the long run.

To sum it up, in the words of Sam,

“Soft skills are not just nice to have, they are a necessity for building a successful team. Companies that prioritize and invest in developing soft skills in their employees will reap the benefits in terms of increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and ultimately, business success.”

To learn more about optimising your talent pool, we encourage you to refer to our previous episodes of Coffee Mornings. We have covered a wide range of topics related to talent management, recruitment, and retention. Our expert guests have shared invaluable insights and strategies that can help you build a robust and diverse talent pool. Additionally, we invite you to stay tuned to our website and LinkedIn page for new episodes and resources, as we are continually seeking to provide useful information crafted by industry experts. By staying informed and learning from the best, you can ensure that your organisation is well-equipped to optimise your talent pool and drive success.

If you’re looking for assistance in developing a strong strategy to implement an organisational structure that fosters people skills, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our team of consultants has extensive experience in talent management, and we specialise in optimising talent placement to maximise productivity. Let’s partner and work collectively towards improving the way we work.