In our introductory entry in this continuing series on soft skills in project management, we considered the importance of soft skills and why they tend to get short shrift – less tangible, harder to measure, less scientific, etc. than “hard” skills. But while rigorous analyses on the impact of soft skills may be lacking across most organizations, a number of studies have been conducted to determine whether there’s a link between soft skills/emotional intelligence and on-the-job performance:
- Goleman Competency AnalysisThis analysis looked at the competencies of 181 positions within 121 companies. It assessed executive management’s profile for excellence in a given job as comprised of either ‘cognitive’ (technical) or ‘emotional’ (soft) skills. The study found that in the 121 companies profiled, 67% of all competencies were based on soft skills, regardless of position. The study specifically looked at 15 competencies listed for an IT project manager position at Amoco – 73% of the key abilities were emotional competencies.
- Jacobs/Chen Analysis
This analysis looked at the relative weight of competencies used in setting star performers apart from average performers within 40 different companies. Technical competencies were 27% more frequent in star performers, but soft skill competencies were 53% more frequent
- Gallup Organization Analysis
A large sample of managers and their employees were interviewed for this study. The relationships between employees and their supervisors were the greatest predictor of productivity. Key drivers included feeling cared about, receiving recognition and regular encouragement. Managers who demonstrated these people skills delivered greater results than those who did not.
- US Office of Personnel Management
This study showed that the higher up employees move within management ranks, the more important interpersonal skills became in distinguishing superior performers from average performers.
Intuitively most project managers know the importance of soft skills, but intuition rarely wins the day in budget discussions with the project management purse-string pullers. Some of the above studies and others provide useful data points that can help embolden your case when appealing for those hard dollars to improve “soft skills” within your department or organization.
Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a business analysis and project management training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 1000 companies, including Verizon, Barclays Bank, JPM Chase, Mattel, State of Oregon, Travelers, Bridgestone, Amgen and Whirlpool.