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From communication to drive: The importance of soft skills

Advice | Communication | Skills | Recruitment

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Soft skills are often difficult to quantify, yet they can become an absolute necessity for your business to reach its growth and progression goals.

According to career site the Muse, workers who have technical knowledge but lack soft skills can often come up with great ideas but are “unable to communicate and implement those”.

A recent survey by software firm iCIMS Hiring Insights found that 94 percent of recruiting professionals think a candidate with stronger soft skills is more likely to be promoted to a leadership position than an employee with more experience but weaker soft skills.

Also highlighting the importance of soft skills to a business’ performance, a recent study from Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Michigan found that training in soft skills - such as communication and problem-solving - boosts productivity and retention by 12 percent and delivers a massive 250 percent return on investment based on that.

Less obvious soft skills

All positions require the person filling them to possess a robust set of soft skills. Some of them may not be as obvious as others, though. Many jobs require specific technical expertise, which can result in misconceptions about how useful soft skills are.

However, these skills can only boost the performance of employees in even the most technical of roles. Some of the world’s biggest enterprises are now realising the value soft skills can provide them.

For example, Google’s hiring process actively seeks to establish a person’s “learning ability”. This ensures that the candidate will be able to further develop after joining the company, which is something that will then have a significant advantage for Google.

So what are some of the most important soft skills for businesses?

Communication

Perhaps surprisingly, communication is also one of the most important soft skills needed for an IT role. This is a soft skill that will come in useful in just about every position at every company. If a candidate is a strong communicator, they will find it easier to share their ideas and any feedback on other ideas.

The strongest candidates will be aware that excellent communication does not just mean public speaking or expressing their thoughts well, but listening too. This is indeed something to bear in mind during the interview stage of the recruitment process.

Problem-solving

Meanwhile, more ‘creative’ jobs, such as those in the marketing industry, can require the ability to solve problems. Campaigns often hit various snags and those responsible need to know how to get past them. This can involve anything from a client wanting to cancel a contract to having to find out why a certain campaign isn’t performing as well as it should.

If an employee can find a way to solve a problem with limited resources, that’s a skill your company should encourage. Enquiring about whether a candidate has a systematic way of approaching complications is an excellent way to begin establishing their ability to solve problems. Do they break things down and get to the root of what’s wrong? Do they keep all stakeholders updated on the situation? These are things the best problem-solvers will do.

Fast learner

For a candidate to hit the ground running and pick things up quickly after they’ve started at your company, you need to ensure that they can learn quickly.

Although it can take an average of eight months for a new employee to become fully productive, according to American Express, fast learners will ensure they are making a substantial contribution to the company before that.

Drive

A company that has ambitious plans for growth will only get where they want to be if they bring on board employees with the same attitude. Technical skills can always be learnt, but you can’t teach a candidate to want to succeed.

A candidate who has been learning a new skill in their spare time or who has tried to push through change in their previous organisation to boost performance is one that shows clear signs of having the drive and determination necessary to help your company achieve its goals.

When so much of the HR recruitment process is focused on technical ability, soft skills are often just an afterthought. However, there are significant advantages of placing more value on these skills during candidate evaluations. After all, if the most successful firms are doing so, shouldn’t you?


Posted by Jon Aspinell on 28th November 2017

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