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Time to harden up on those soft skills

While the internet has created great networking opportunities for businesses and individuals, the value of face-to-face communication should not be forgotten, according to recruiting experts Hays.

Updated: 20 Jan 2016
While the internet has created great networking opportunities for businesses and individuals, the value of face-to-face communication should not be forgotten, according to recruiting experts Hays.
This issue is explored in the latest Hays Journal, out now, where some critics argue that the use of technology is causing people to lose their interpersonal or soft skills, both in terms of external networking and communicating with their colleagues.
“The technology boom has opened up many networks online and created real, focused, commercial opportunities. One merit of making connections online is the opportunity to tap into a vast international knowledge base,” says Simon Lance, Regional Director of Hays in China.
“The internet is not just a new, expansive way to communicate with other individuals. Businesses are exploiting these new networks, such as web-based crowdsourcing sites that allow new ideas to be shared with user communities, many of them specialists in a given field.
However, since most business communication has migrated online some believe a static workforce has been created, one that is losing confidence, dynamism and the tangential benefits of real human contact.
“In a knowledge-based economy, it’s a high risk strategy for individuals to neglect person-to-person connections,” says Simon.
“And companies should help their staff to learn to network more effectively, both in person and online.”
According to Simon, email should be no substitute for human contact and companies should develop their staff’s softer skills as there are gains to be made whether within or outside the organisation.
“Staff who are isolated by email can become a threat to an employers’ competitiveness, so offering formal training in networking skills would benefit both companies and the individuals concerned,” says Simon.
Introductions via technology can be a good starting point, but professional relationships are often cemented in person.
 “If you want your business to succeed, sooner or later you’ll need to meet the people you would like to turn into clients or staff,” says Simon.
“And you should not underestimate the need to get people together physically to create the required trust and common understanding, especially if it is a new group or team.” 
Top 5 networking tips according to the Hays Journal:
  1. People should be cultivating their ‘weak ties’ – those individuals encountered casually or unexpectedly who could develop into new and useful relationships. Potential networks are everywhere and not always in work-related places. 
  1. Technical knowledge of a job role or organisation is a given in anyone with any professional ambition. But ‘loose knowledge’ – what and who we know outside of work – is also relevant and could also be useful to career development. Such information should be exploited appropriately.
  1. The ‘global green room’ – the elite networks that welcome senior people, but remain closed to those further down the professional chain – stifles creativity. Opening up established groups to outsiders and sharing knowledge and best practice on a more meritocratic basis could revitalise networks.
  1. ‘Marzipan managers’ should be a source of concern for organisations. These employees sit beneath the leadership icing and often feel frustrated and swamped in a sea of email and paperwork. Responsible employers will encourage them to network for their own benefit and that of the organisation. 
  1. Organisations should aspire to becoming ‘curious corporations’. In order to flourish and succeed, businesses must not be too insular and should be aware of what is happening outside their operation. To achieve this, they must engage with the broader world through external networks and information-sharing to generate new ideas.
To view the complete Hays Journal, please go to
Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.
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About Hays
Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.
Hays Specialist Recruitment  (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s eighteen specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Executive, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Insurance, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.
Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company with more than 7,800 staff operating from 245 offices across 33 countries.
Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.

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