It does not matter what business you are in: Relationships are everything. Not even the most technical, data-driven employee operates in a vacuum. Employees with good relationships are healthier, happier, and more likely to advance in their careers. Employers benefit through increased engagement, improved productivity, and a workforce that is less likely to leave.
I was reminded of this when I spoke at a conference for users of a highly specialized and technical piece of software. Standing in front of an international audience of process engineers and manufacturing control managers, I wondered how my message would resonate with them. Would they dismiss business relationship building as just another “soft skill?”
My worries were unfounded. The audience was interactive, enthusiastic, and engaged (everything a speaker could hope for, in fact). Several audience members approached me afterwards, eager to share their own relationship building success stories.
Relationships Drive Success
As a specific and measurable job function, business relationship building is often ascribed to the sales and marketing team. Of the conference attendees I spoke with, however, few were directly responsible for managing relationships with clients or customers. Instead, they talked about building connections and maintaining relationships with people across all stages of the manufacturing cycle, including:
I heard stories of engineers collaborating with marketers to produce operator-friendly communications, plant managers taking time to appreciate employees for a job well done, and technical support staff going above and beyond during large-scale installations. (Maintaining good relationships up and down the supply chain is mission critical when you are dealing with expensive and complicated software installations. These are long-term commitments that are not easily unraveled.)
Business Relationship Building Skills are Timeless
The importance of relationship building in business is nothing new, of course. In 1918, the Carnegie Foundation published A Study of Engineering Education by Charles Riborg Mann which concluded that soft skills were much more important to career success than hard skills.
In 2016, a group of researchers from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center extrapolated statistics from Riborg Mann’s 1918 report and concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills. The other 15% comes from technical skills and knowledge (i.e., hard skills).
So here we are, more than one hundred years later and the data still points to the indisputable fact that soft skills—like collaboration, communication, and connection—are essential to job success. Yet many companies still spend 75% or more of their training budgets on the development of hard skills. Isn’t it time to revisit these numbers?
Offered through OpenSesame, The Galvanizing Group’s library of interactive online courses—focused on relationship building and personal effectiveness—helps develop learners’ essential business skills and transforms the way employees build and maintain relationships.
Patrick Galvin is a TEDx speaker, author, and the chief galvanizer of The Galvanizing Group which was founded on the belief that business relationship building is a skill that can be learned, improved, tracked, and measured. Patrick is also a keynote speaker at OpenSesame’s Learning Unlocked 2020.