Between a Rock and a Soft Place –  Soft skills and employee success

Article contributed by Kevin Joly

Ever hire an employee that didn’t work out and have to answer the question “What went wrong??

When I looked back at why the person didn’t work out, it usually was because of attendance, lack of organization or communication, a personality conflict or some other interpersonal skill. It rarely had to do with a lack of technical skills or knowledge. I  think even further back to the job descriptions and interviews and what they focused on and it was largely; tasks, software knowledge, years of experience, etc. There was so little focus on some of the most important parts of what would make an employee successful in these roles. The soft skills!

Much of today’s research suggests that soft skills are and will continue to be the most critical skill needed for employees. Research from Harvard University, Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and interpersonal skills. These skills are also more transferrable from company to company.  As technology continues to automate historically manual processes, the non-technical skills will continue to be the focus of employee’s jobs moving forward, especially for your professional and leadership groups.  Despite all of this, many companies still fail to focus on these skills or struggle on how to assess them.   

In the recruitment process, employers should consider focusing more on behavioral based assessments and questions to answer “Is this the right person for the role?”. Technical skills can be much easier to train on and don’t necessarily translate into employee success. Below are some great tips for attracting and assessing soft skills:

  • Make the soft skills the focus of your job descriptions and postings
  • Ask for specific and detailed work experiences where they demonstrated the desired skills (What was the situation? What did they specifically do? What was the outcome?)
  • Be aware of how candidates are acting in the interview (Arriving on time, how they interact with your other employees, communication skills, taking accountability/credit in their examples)
  • Use widely recognized personality assessments (DiSC, Drake P3)
  • Evaluate employees in your organization who are high performers, what soft skills do they possess?

While every job is different and there is always a balance some jobs just by nature have a strong technical component. You can’t hire someone to be a doctor if they don’t have the credentials just because they are great listener! People with excellent soft skills can usually find a way to bring value to your organization even if it is not in the role you originally considered. With the continued talent shortage, these skills may be even harder to find as the market gets more and more competitive. Focusing on recruiting, interviewing and assessing for soft skills can help you find some amazing talent!