It is not uncommon to hear the words “skills gap” repeatedly mentioned by hiring managers when discussing why positions are vacant and how to win the search for the Holy Grail (AKA–the perfectly fitting candidates to fill those vacant positions). There is great debate on what exactly comprises a “skills gap” and why positions stay vacant. Is the gap based on technological skills? Technical skills? Soft skills? A mix? A recent telephone survey conducted by Adecco Staffing to 500 executives sheds some light on this topic, and the results generated from that phone survey might not be that shocking. 44% of those surveyed reported the gap they experience most often is based on a lack of soft skills.
How to Screen for Soft Skills
Soft skills. Interesting adjective: soft. Soft skills are anything but soft because those skills provide the core foundation for an employee’s success within an organization, and that success is essential for a company to survive in this volatile economic market. If a company hires a candidate with less than stellar soft skills, that can be a huge liability to the company. Customer service is a key role in every position, no matter if that person does not directly contact the company’s clients. Employees must positively interact with teammates in order to deliver exemplary customer service and not just meet, but exceed, the customer’s demands. If the customer is not happy, that customer will find another company to make it happy…and tell other potential customers about its experience along the way. Employee assessments can assist hiring managers in identifying candidates who could possibly integrate successfully into the company culture. We are human. Disagreements can and will occur because great talent comes from various personality styles; it is how those disagreements occur constructively and how they are resolved positively for growth to occur and innovative ideas to formulate and come to fruition.
Effective communication skills are some of the most sought after soft skills. Unless the job specifically requires it, a person does not need to be an accomplished speaker or published writer with a long list of accolades; that person does need to have the communication skills to express thoughts and ideas efficiently and be able to give and receive constructive criticism in a positive manner along with demonstrating the ability to coherently express himself/herself in written language. Displaying professionalism in the work environment means displaying the same behaviors sought. Leading by example impacts others more profoundly than preaching empty words and barking orders. Managers need to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves: Am I a supportive mentor to my team? Am I displaying the same characteristics I expect from my team?
Ways to Enhance Your Communication Skills
So how can a person improve his/her soft skills? Volunteering is a great way to help others while helping oneself. When working with diverse groups of people, a person will be introduced to different communication styles which in turn gives an individual an opportunity to refine his/her communication skills. There is an extensive list of nonprofit organizations that are desperately seeking human capital to volunteer; use your favorite search engine to get a list of those places, or just contact an organization that piques your interest and call it to see how you can volunteer. Another way to enhance communication skills is to find a professional mentor who can support you as you branch out of your comfort zone and what you feel is the norm. Look at networking groups to meet and integrate with others. Take a class. Many colleges have noncredit classes at a low fee or credit based classes you can audit at a reduced tuition rate if you do not want the college credits. There are so many classes that are applicable to human resources, interpersonal communications, and organizational development that will expand your ideas, but even taking a course based on a hobby introduces you to others’ perspectives where you can also share your own. It is never too late to learn new concepts.
Employers want employees who can “play well” together because time is too limited of a resource to be spending it putting out fires among the team. The old adage plays true–you are only as strong as the weakest link, and if that link breaks, it might not be able to be repaired. Time needs to be spent on the organization’s mission and not bandaging internal conflicts. People tend to spend more time at work or working at home than non-work related activities so it is important to develop a team of mutually supportive individuals aiming for the same goals but with creativity and innovative skills to help the team take a very unique route to achieve those goals. After all, isn’t it great to enjoy the scenery on the way to arriving at the destination?