Why you need to look harder at soft skills

When looking for new talent, do you give as much kudos to soft skills as you do to hard? Soft skills, otherwise known as interpersonal, social or communication skills, cover a broad range of qualities such as empathy, integrity, conflict management, emotional intelligence and adaptability; they can often be viewed as secondary to qualifications and technical skills, optional ‘nice to haves’, but a shortage of these skills can have a detrimental impact on your bottom line.

The term itself doesn’t help; despite the connotations, soft skills can have far reaching benefits for long-term success. But employers are facing something of a paradox: despite soft skills assessment being a key focus for recruiters in 2017 (LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends Report) , the Welsh market is still facing a skills gap in nine key sectors and many employers are finding themselves prioritising the hard skills they need to deliver their specialisms.

This skills gap has become a key focus for government and business groups in Wales; at an event this week, Professor Dylan Jones-Evans and Cardiff Vale and College will discuss the recent findings of a SME Skills Survey taken on behalf of South East Wales Regional Skills Partnership (LSkiP). The Employment and Skills Plan 2016 highlights that more than 50% of employers reported soft skills like self‐management and task prioritisation lacking, with over 40% reporting a lack of team‐working and customer handling skills.

Increasingly, businesses are realising that giving equal attention to both soft and hard skills can help solidify their competitive advantage. As a result, the days of candidates relying solely on qualifications and experience alone to advance their career are gone; hard skills may get candidates the interview, but good soft skills are a vital element in helping people land that dream job – and keep it.

At Sitka, we take a thorough look at both hard and soft skills when getting to know candidates and recruiting for our clients – here are some reasons why you should too:

Soft skills build robust teams

Choosing employees with good interpersonal skills will undoubtedly lead to better working relationships between colleagues; in turn, this will lead to better collaboration, more effective team working, and better solutions to problems that will help you outsmart your competition. (See more here on the benefits of team working). On the other hand, poor soft skills can cause internal conflicts and disengaged employees, negatively impacting your productivity and leading to the loss of highly skilled people.

Soft skills enable better client experiences

Ironically, in our increasingly global and technology-based work environment, having the skills to build authentic relationships is becoming more important than ever before. Of course, how much credit you give to this depends on the industry you’re in, but being able to connect well and build strong relationships with clients face-to-face is pretty much a universal essential. It’s these relationships that will help you nurture a loyal client base and differentiate your business from others in the market.

Soft skills increase staff engagement

Employees who are committed, have a strong work ethic and encompass your business’ values will be more ‘on board’ and easier to motivate. Being able to engage with employees effectively will help you improve their loyalty, thus minimising staff turnover, avoiding unnecessary costs and helping you focus on achieving your business goals.

Soft skills make you more agile

Recruiting employees who are quick to learn and adapt will lead to greater flexibility, which in the modern and constantly changing marketplace is critical. Likewise, having staff with good time management and organisation skills will help you to deliver under pressure, meet client expectations on schedule and maintain your trusted reputation.

Soft skills help recruit the right people

There may be occasions where a candidate ticks 80-90% of the boxes for a role but needs some additional support or soft skills coaching. In these cases, and in the absence of a closer match, it can make sense to go ahead and recruit, planning some additional skills training into their personal development plan. However, overlooking a shortfall in interpersonal skills is risky; you might end up investing in extensive and time-consuming training and find yourself playing mediator, having to resolve conflicts that impact the time you can allocate to your other employees and damage team morale. Asking candidates to complete personality tests as part of the recruitment process can be helpful in helping to identify people with the right soft skills from the outset.

Soft skills are renowned for being difficult to screen for and incredibly hard to learn. A recent survey on LinkedIn found that ‘58% percent of hiring managers believe the lack of soft skills among candidates is ‘limiting their company’s productivity.’  If, like them, you’re convinced that you need them, how do you go about finding them?

We mentioned personality tests earlier; these can be very effective in helping to narrow down the individuals with the right combination of skills to complement your existing team – but they aren’t always fool-proof. Another answer is technology; the increase in automation tools can certainly help assess soft skills more accurately and quickly. However, in our view there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned face to face interaction to build the relationships necessary to really understand candidates’ unique personalities.

At Sitka, we pride ourselves on being able to help businesses screen for soft skills and personal fit more efficiently. As an impartial recruitment partner, we find that candidates really open up to us; we spend time finding out what motivates them, what helps them perform to their best potential, and how they react in challenging situations. We also invest time in genuinely understanding our clients workplace culture and the soft skills they need to complement their existing team, this in turn allows us to source experienced, compatible candidates.

There’s no escaping the fact that giving the same attention to both soft and hard skills  the throughout the recruitment process really can save you time and money and ultimately make you more successful. If you’re ready to grow your talent, please contact us today to see how we can help.

For more information on how a recruitment partner can help you, please see our previous blog post on what to look for.

To find out how we can work with you, please drop us a line