Author and speaker Bob Burg articulated it best: “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to those people they know, like, and trust.”
I was reminded of this recently when I delivered the keynote speech at a conference for users of a highly specialized and technical piece of software. The topic was “Galvanizing Business with Better Relationships.”
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 professional speaker could hope for, in fact). Several audience members approached me after the speech and eagerly shared 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 very 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 the 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, 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 most companies spend 75% or more of their training budgets on the development of hard skills. Isn’t it time to rethink those numbers?
Rethinking Corporate Training Budgets
It doesn’t 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 quit. This was true on hundred years ago, and will almost certainly be true one hundred years from now!
The Galvanizing Group believes that business relationship building is a skill that can be learned, improved, tracked and measured. For more information about our work with companies and teams, including our innovative cohort coaching program, please contact us here.