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April 21, 2023 | Klein Consultants
In today’s rapidly evolving job market, the importance of soft skills, also known as people skills, cannot be overstated. As technology continues to automate many hard skills, it is the possession of these qualities that distinguish individuals and contributes to their success in the workplace. According to a recent Future of Work report published by Monster, the top four qualities sought by employers across industries are all soft skills: dependability, teamwork/collaboration, flexibility, and problem-solving abilities. Employers recognize that these skills are crucial indicators of job performance, employee retention, and overall engagement. Consequently, accurately and effectively assessing these skills in candidates and employees has become more vital than ever before.
So, what exactly are soft skills, why are they valuable to teams, and how can organizations evaluate and measure them? Let’s delve into these questions to gain a comprehensive understanding.
Soft skills encompass a range of behaviors, personality traits, and work habits that enable individuals to thrive in their professional environment. Collaboration, critical thinking, perseverance, and communication, among others, fall under the umbrella of soft skills, as defined by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). These skills play a significant role in determining an employee’s longevity, ability to work well within a team, potential for growth, and propensity to take initiative. Incorporating analysis into the hiring process provides an objective measurement that enables fair consideration of candidates and assessment of the most relevant soft skills for each open position.
Numerous soft skills hold immense value in the workplace. Effective communication allows individuals to convey ideas clearly, facilitating collaboration and fostering an environment of understanding. Dependability pertains to following through on commitments, ensuring reliability and trustworthiness in executing tasks. Managing work stress showcases an individual’s ability to think clearly and maintain professionalism even under pressure. Leadership entails strategic thinking and team management. Teamwork evaluates one’s capacity for cooperation, active listening, and respecting diversity. Creativity involves the development of innovative solutions and identification of opportunities. Problem-solving skills indicate the ability to address issues quickly and effectively. Adaptability measures how well individuals can learn new skills and behaviors in ever-changing circumstances. Conflict management encompasses the identification and fair handling of conflicts, while open-mindedness reflects a willingness to embrace new ideas, solutions, and critical feedback.
The significance of evaluating soft skills lies in the increasing demand for these qualities as technology advances. According to McKinsey research, while technology automates basic manual processes, the need for soft skills is predicted to rise substantially. By 2030, the demand for strong cognitive skills is expected to increase by 8%, while the demand for strong social and emotional skills in the workplace is projected to grow by 24%. While AI and automation have made significant strides, they still lag behind the human brain in areas such as creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership – all of which are essential skills for innovation and growth. The shift to remote work has further emphasized the importance of strong teamwork skills, as some studies suggest that remote work can lead to siloed departments and hinder collaboration. To combat these challenges, companies with remote or hybrid workforces that identify candidates and employees with skills related to working well with others are better positioned to adapt, evolve, and grow.
A soft skills assessment serves as a valuable tool to gauge the degree to which candidates possess the qualities necessary for success in a particular job. Typically administered online, this assessment provides insights that help employers make informed decisions in various employment contexts. Employers can benefit from soft skills assessments by hiring adaptable individuals who embrace change and new ideas, finding employees who thrive in collaborative settings, comparing similar candidates, identifying reliable and resilient individuals, discovering innovative thinkers who contribute to company growth, and determining the best approach to developing employees once they are hired. Soft skills assessments offer objective insights that go beyond what resumes and interviews can provide. Resumes often focus on achievements and education, while interviews may be subjective and prone to implicit bias. By incorporating insights from a skills test conducted online before an interview, employers can conduct more productive and focused interviews, delving deeper into competency areas worth exploring.
Soft skills assessments are not limited to the hiring process; they can also be beneficial for existing employees as part of learning and development efforts. While technical skills can be developed through linear training paths, soft skills require a more nuanced approach. Regular skills assessments can help identify areas for improvement and provide appropriate training to prevent these skills from weakening due to lack of use, as cautioned by SHRM.
To conduct a comprehensive soft skills assessment, employers can utilize a combination of methods such as multi-measure hiring assessments, behavioral interview questions, and job simulations. Multi-measure assessments provide a holistic view of a candidate’s job-relevant skills through objective and scientific data. Cognitive ability assessments gauge an individual’s capacity to learn, think critically, solve problems, and comprehend complex concepts. Personality assessments evaluate traits like cooperation, dependability, stress tolerance, sociability, and open-mindedness. Motivation assessments reveal a person’s interests and preferences related to work, indicating tasks that will keep them engaged.
In addition to assessments, targeted behavioral interview questions are effective in uncovering information about key soft skills. These questions can revolve around problem identification and mitigation, approaches to overwhelming tasks, and response to mistakes at work. Going beyond general interview questions, job simulations present realistic scenarios specific to the role, allowing employers to assess a candidate’s thought process and problem-solving abilities.
By prioritizing the assessment of soft skills, organizations gain a competitive advantage in an evolving job landscape driven by AI, automation, and remote work. Soft skills related to innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking are increasingly valued as they remain areas where human brains outperform algorithms. Companies that inventory skills in job applicants and invest in developing these skills in existing employees are more likely to build teams capable of thriving and adapting to the future of work.