The Top 12 Most Important Soft Skills for SME Management

In order to create a roadmap to discover the top 12 most important soft skills for SME management, the partners of the FETRA project each held a focus group in their own country. The focus groups were a great success, with each organisation reaching at least 8 local experts in the fields of entrepreneurship, management, or Human Resources (HR). The purpose was to narrow down each partner country’s perception of which soft skills are most important for recent entrepreneurs to find success in their business.  

Upon analysing the Focus Group results in the five partner countries, we have determined that the below are the top most important soft skills for recent entrepreneurs in each country:  

The focus groups revealed a number of conclusions that would be significant knowledge for anyone that has recently started a SME. Namely:  

  • The selection of staff and the creation of a competitive and committed team of workers is a determining factor in achieving competitive and successful companies. This is why the recruitment process is extremely important, as it is through this process that the structure of the team with which the company will compete in the market is configured. 
  • The selection of the wrong candidate leads to a number of costs, which in the case of small and medium sized enterprises can have a very negative effect on the survival of the company. Among the costs mentioned were the ones below: 
  • Training costs and the costs of adaptation and integration into the work team. 
  • Salary and social security costs.  
  • Productivity could drop and this would result in a loss of customers and profits 
  • the costs of re-selection.  
  • The image of the company, the climate that can be generated in the rest of the employees, etc. 
  • The role of HR is not only to recruit staff, but also to create a good working environment 
  • The main reason that SMEs give for rejecting HR management is that “hiring a specialist is a cost they cannot afford.” Many SMEs are not aware of the impact that a good HR management policy can have on their bottom line and taking into account what has been said above, we could say that it is a one-off cost that will be recovered in the future. 
  • There is a growing interest in soft skills among those selected. The search is no longer just for those who know the most, but also for those who learn the fastest. This is where soft skills come into play, those non-technical skills that candidates have that can tip the balance in their favour. Taking into account   the personality traits of employees has become crucial. Training   and work experience are important, yes, but there is no doubt that these types of skills, with more personal and less technical components, are gaining ground when it comes to recruiting new employees. 

This field research has been conducted in order to provide the roadmap for the Evaluation Tool we are now in the process of creating.

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A closer look: Focus Groups in the UK

We would like to thank our local participants in Reading who took part in this blended face-to-face and online focus group, some of which are featured below.

Click the icons to learn more.   

Profectus Recruitment 

Bastille Day Festival Reading 

Tontyne Finance 


Outcomes Of Workshop

ERASMUS+ Programme Key Action 2 

“Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices”, Sub-Action “Strategic Partnerships for adult education” 

On January 25th, 2021, the first workshop of the FETRA project took place online and lasted for 2 hours. 7 representatives from the 6 partners’ organisations (Coworking Plus from Denmark, GrowthCoop and INDEPECIE from Spain, Eurospeak from the UK, EESTI People for People from Estonia and APLOAD form Portugal) participated actively in it.  

Regarding the structure of the workshop, it started with a short introduction on how to help young entrepreneurs and SMEs in the implementation and development of human resources on their own companies. After that partners had the chance to work in two groups for half an hour each, followed by another group activityThere was some time left for conclusions by the end of each working group. These groups elaborated on the topics of the top soft skills for successful entrepreneurs and on human resource management. The workshop came to an end by summing up all partners’ conclusions that derived from the final discussion of the participants. 

With this information, the consortium aims to develop an OER (Open Educational Resource) platform containing information about the right soft skills for young entrepreneurs who lack human resources education. Towards this goal, the FETRA projects aims to promote and encourage personal development, to increase the intellectual capital of an SME and to develop entrepreneurs’ soft skills in human resources. 

Focusing on the outcomes of the workshop, participants agreed that all soft skills are important in order to motivate employees and to increase SME productivity. Undoubtedly, they are absolutely connected with entrepreneurs. The skills can be either intrapersonal or interpersonal and some are non-technical skills. Empathy is very important for creating a good working environment with happy people, as it is necessary to know how an employee feels. Being good at management, including the relationship between colleagues and employees, helps boost SME productivity. Humans are not robots, so the ability to understand people’s problems and challenges is crucial within an enterprise. The working group of the workshop ended up with these 8 top soft skills: 

  1. Positive mindset
  2. Teamwork
  3. Discipline
  4. Empathy
  5. Commitment
  6. Communication
  7. Negotiation
  8. Active listening 

Concerning human resource management (HRM) outcomes, it can be said that they are also extremely important for SMEs. 4 main areas common to all SMEs could be identified as: Recruitment, Training, Compensation and Retention. Partners agreed that it is essential to hire the right person for the right position in order to avoid any future problems. HRM is vital for entrepreneurs because it helps them manage people in the company, find the right talent. Experts and innovators can form an idea or create a product or service, increase the productivity of the company and retain talents. Other benefits gained are good working atmosphere and good reputation in small companies. 

To sum up, the participants of the FETRA workshop concluded that having the necessary soft skills together with good HR management can make all the difference, as SMEs will end up more efficient and more productive. That is why SMEs should invest time and resources in learning HR management and acquiring the related soft skills.  

All in all, it can be said that the main outcome of FETRA’s workshop is the fact that combining soft skills and human resources management could help the development of SMEs.