No 'soft skills' for us, we're techies

Soft skills training sits uneasily with IT staff who are otherwise happy to take training - if it's technical.

IT staff, it seems, do not realise the potential benefits of adding soft skills training -- including people management and business skills -- to their training portfolio as a way of advancing their career, according to IT managers and CIOs.

Wayne Miller, manager MIS, HCF Australia, said many doors will open for IT staff who can master both technical and soft skills and agrees IT staff are reluctant to train in soft skills, because of previous bad experiences.

"I believe they see themselves as 'techos' and don't see how these soft skills are going to improve their product delivery. I disagree with this line of thinking, because the better you are able to communicate with your customer the better the experience will be for both parties.

"Sometimes users find it daunting to speak to IT staff as they feel [technical people] talk a different language. IT staff live and breathe the jargon and acronyms, which mean nothing to an outsider. IT staff need to be conscious of the audience they are addressing, verbally or in writing. I often see memos addressed to a non-IT person, which even I have trouble interpreting," Miller saidSimon Huggard, systems manager in the systems support unit of the library at Monash University, said IT staff are definitely not happy about taking soft skills training. They are much better at communicating via e-mail than face to face, he said.

Soft skills training can benefit IT staff in terms of laying out instructions -- "particularly to do with the installation of software", he said.

While admitting soft skills are valuable when it comes to moving one or two notches up the corporate ladder, he said technical skills training is much more useful as it is the most important part of the job.

"Usually, if you have a manager who sends out communication regarding instructions to do with the upgrading of software, there isn't a problem, but these days it often falls upon the technical staff to send out instructions which must be [absolutely] clear," Huggard said.

An IT manager from a footwear company, who requested anonymity, said IT staff think it is unnecessary to develop soft skills.

"I keep telling my staff that if they can communicate with the business, they can help build the business. Customer service is a key skill IT staff need these days, but few seem to want to develop it," she said.

"We have had years of frustration where a business person could not talk to a member of the IT team. These days, business people are IT savvy. Even if they don't know the ins and outs, you can't pull the wool over their eyes today," she said.

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