When it comes to hiring in today’s workforce, employers find themselves struggling to maintain a well-rounded workforce with the right blend of technical knowledge and soft skills. While hard skills are often a critical component of an employee’s role within an organization, companies are now also seeking individuals that can be flexible and adaptable in today’s ever-changing business environment. The bar has been set higher than ever before, creating a perceived talent skills gap within the workforce. Many employers are faced with the challenge of how to find and keep skilled talent to remain competitive, but don’t know how to address the problem.
Measuring the Skills Gap
LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report showed that 70 percent of talent professionals and hiring managers use or plan to use people analytics to identify skills gaps within the next five years. Unfortunately, for most teams, there isn’t a clear road map on how to effectively use this data to help close the skills gaps at their organizations. It is generally a straightforward process to identify gaps in the hard skills category, as skills such as knowledge of a particular tool or math proficiency are typically easier to quantify. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more subjective. These skills detail the way you relate to and interact with other people. Examples include leadership, grit, resilience, communication, decision making and creativity. Soft skills are what allow employees and employers to become more agile and adaptable in diverse work settings.
This leaves employers with plenty of questions. Does the talent pool simply lack appropriate soft skills needed to succeed at the organization? Are employees not being presented with the right opportunities to utilize their skill set? Is it a combination of both?
The answer is yes! While it’s true hiring managers can do a better job in terms of screening, hiring and retaining employees with the right soft skills, that all means nothing if talent’s skills are not being unleashed properly.
Hiring for Soft Skills
Managers should first review their hiring process. Many managers screen and select talent for only the role and responsibilities baked into a job description. Instead, they should also assess fit between the supervisor, team and environment. This requires gathering more information up front on talent’s soft skills. Psychometric questionnaires and assessments can provide analytics on an individual’s personality traits, motivations and behaviors. These results give hiring managers rich information on the natural traits, capabilities and behaviors an individual can be expected to exhibit in their work environment. This helps teams to make more informed hiring decisions and better connects the talent with the opportunity, moving beyond just a resume or set of interview conversations. When managers have more detail around a candidate’s personality traits, they can better leverage those traits and align individuals to the fundamental business needs.
Management and Development
After bringing talent on board, managers should focus on driving productivity while keeping their employees happy and engaged. This is no easy task. Technology is changing jobs faster than ever. HR Analyst Josh Bersin’s 2020 Predictions Report discusses the need to, “rethink skills in a world where work is always on, where we get hundreds of messages all day, and where our companies are more flat, diverse, and complex than ever.” In this increasingly complex work environment, employee experience, which has been found to be strongly related to positive business outcomes, has become a major focus for organizations.
Naturally, managers want their people to be passionate and committed. If a manager can get more data around what motivates employees and enables them to succeed, they can keep talent more engaged and satisfied in their work. Employee experience should also focus on fostering quality relationships within teams. When provided with more detail around how employees behave in certain professional contexts, hiring managers can better manage misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict. This makes the working relationship strong, cohesive and effective. Conversations become more personalized and targeted to the talent’s strengths, needs, growth opportunities and areas of development.
Selecting the Right Assessment
Using a soft skill assessment tool correctly can help managers uncover insights that can improve the entire life cycle of their team. These insights lead to hiring choices based on fit, better training to transform individuals into top performers and increased long-term motivation. As the number of assessments grow and employers race to solve the skills gap dilemma, hiring managers face a new problem – selecting the right assessment.
First and foremost, when choosing an assessment tool, look for one that is relevant in its outputs and measures what it claims to measure consistently. This is known as reliability and validity.
Next, it’s essential that assessments enable users to provide honest responses. Forced choice-style assessments are particularly effective in deterring participants from answering questions in a misleading way. This form of assessment attempts to eliminate biases in an individual’s answers by eliminating options such as “not sure” or “no opinion.” Requiring participants to choose an answer – even ones that may be personally undesirable – for every prompt pushes them away from seeking out only those responses they perceive will be viewed more favorably by others. Forced choice offers a more accurate measurement of talent’s personality and has shown validity with on-job performance.
Finally, avoid assessment tools that group individuals together under broad categories. While grouping employees into buckets, such as introverted or extroverted, might seem to make the information easier to consume at first, this approach only scratches the surface of what’s possible. Effective assessments have the power to identify millions of variances in results, which proves everyone is truly unique! Rather than lumping teammates into broad categories and brushing meaningful details aside, find a tool that can identify all of an individual’s unique skills.
In the end, finding a reliable and valid tool is the most important step towards understanding individuals employees on a deeper level. This will make identifying skills critical to business easier, and help facilitate closing the skills gap at your organization.
The Future of Work
Soft skills are indeed critically important to the future of work. Unleashing one’s capabilities and working specifically to their preferences allows hiring managers to say “goodbye” to the dreaded skills gap and “hello” to putting your company at a competitive advantage.
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