Don’t Skip the Soft Skills

There are definitely reasons from the management side why you would want employees with soft skills. But I wonder if an emphasis on these traits doesn’t also point to an acknowledgement of the importance of workplace culture to employees?

If you are looking for a new job (or even just thinking about starting to look for one), one of the common pieces of advice you’ll hear from those in a position to hire is their recent emphasis on soft skills. According to many employers who opine on having Millennials taking up a larger share of the workforce, one of the key traits they are lacking are the soft skills. Regardless of whether or not this is actually the case, it’s become an accepted truth due to its constant repetition.

You have been weighed

You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.

I think that one of the reasons that there is a disconnect when it comes to the hiring process is because of the hiring process itself. Even in the time I’ve been in the workforce, job postings have morphed from something that was fairly vague to something that resembles project specifications for a unicorn. Add to that the professionalization of HR and the accompanying fear of lawsuits based on discrimination, and anything that can’t be objectively weighed and measured is deemed to be too risky for a job posting. So the postings focus on the harder tech skills. This has been elevated to another level with the widespread adoption of Applicant Talent Software (ATS), which runs resumes through a computer program to weed out people who don’t meet baseline standards. In order to make it past the software, applicants have to stuff their resumes with as many keywords as possible and focus only on what’s in the job posting, thus leading to an emphasis on hard skills.

A recent piece from Business Insider profiled four traits hiring managers want to see in their new hires, and all of them are from the soft skills realm. The preferred traits listed are:

  1. Someone who plays well with others – self explanatory and a lesson all of us have been learning since our days in the sandbox.
  2. Someone who gets fired up – as in someone who gets excited about something and throws themselves into it…not someone who starts hotheaded arguments.
  3. Someone who works hard – no lazy bums here please!
  4. Someone who is likable – again, play well in the sandbox.

There are definitely reasons from the management side why you would want employees with these traits. For example, if an employee gets fired up about doing their job you are much less likely to have to micromanage them to get them to work and get projects done on time. We may have at one point all suffered through having a micromanaging boss, but most good bosses don’t want to have to do that.

But I wonder if an emphasis on these traits doesn’t also point to an acknowledgement of the importance of workplace culture to employees? After all, we on average 1/3rd of our lives at work, so it’s important that we at least don’t actively dislike our workplace. Millennials are also known to place a high importance on workplace culture, which is far more than just having ping pong tables available for use during the work day. This emphasis on soft skills in employees may just be the sign that workplaces are starting to recognize the importance of workplace culture, especially in the recruiting process.

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