Picture the scene: The kitchen pipe has burst, it’s leaking, you need a plumber asap and you have two options – plumber A is highly qualified with over 10 years experience, plumber B is an apprentice, they both cost the same and can come that day.
Naturally, plumber A would be the safe bet, as a certified plumber with 10 years under his belt there’s no doubt that he’d be able to fix the pipe in a second. Why take a risk on an apprentice?
What if a quick Qype search then threw up a list of reviews slating him as bad-tempered and rude? Plumber B on the other hand, has a handful of great comments complimenting him on his work and great character.
Suddenly, taking a chance with the less experienced plumber B doesn’t seem like such a risk, and it’s all thanks to his soft skills.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills is the term given to the behavioral traits that complement the more technical, hard skills required to fulfill an occupational position.
The behavioural traits that make up soft skills consist of qualities such as good communication skills, strategic thinking, ability to negotiate, time management and optimism, to name a few. What it generally boils down to, are people skills.
When it comes to recruiting, it’s the hard skills that will reel someone in for a position – after all it’s difficult to convey a sense of optimism via a CV alone.
Hard skills are the technical abilities needed to fulfill a role, such as language abilities, typing speed, certificates, software proficiency, the ability to operate machinery and so on. However, although they’re essential, hard skills alone are not enough to keep a company afloat.
Soft skill gap
Although hard skills allow employees to technically fulfill their duties, a lack of soft skills will leave an business with what is called a soft skill gap. High staff turnover and low return custom is generally a sign of this.
Would you return to the cafe that was consistently staffed by unfriendly waiters? The chances are, that same cafe doesn’t have employees who stick around for long either – if they were happy at work, they’d also be happy to stay. The same rule applies to any business, large or small.
Soft skills – the key to success
Soft skills are the lynchpin to a successful company, underlying all of the key aspects of teamwork, good management and leadership skills. The saying no man is an island sums up the key concept of soft skills in an organisation where being a teamplayer is essential for productivity.
Soft skills are also the qualities that make a successful leader, and ultimately it is soft skills that create a positive, and engaging working environment.
How to spot soft skills
As mentioned, it’s the hard skills that will get a job candidate through the first round. However, what looks good on paper won’t always materialize in person, and this is where interviews are important in gaging soft skills.
A smile, firm handshake and upright posture are classic indicators of good character, but candidates today are well trained in the art of interview tactics and it can be hard to spot true soft skills. Behavioral questions specifically worded to stimulate answers which indicate personality strengths can be used to spot soft skills. It’s also worth asking references for a quick overview of your candidates soft skills. If their ex manager jumps at the chance to rave about their great personality then you can be pretty sure you’re onto a winner.
The importance of hiring a candidate with soft skills
These days there are numerous behavioural training courses and team building exercises available to develop soft skills. However, unlike hard skills, some characteristics just can’t be taught.
Optimism, empathy, listening skills are all personality traits that are difficult to learn, and unfortunately hard skills alone just won’t cut the mustard in the workplace (especially where there is teamwork involved).
The drawback of hiring on hard skills alone
The knock-on effect of hiring based only on hard skills can be detrimental to a working environment, staff engagement and staff retention.
You may hire a new manager with 30 years of executive experience, but if he or she have a tendency to micromanage and no listening skills to speak of, it won’t take long for your fed up employees to start resigning.
Soft skills vs hard skills
Essentially, when it comes to hiring it can be all too easy to choose someone based on their experience and qualifications however, the way that they interact with their colleagues, superiors and/or clients are equally as important in running a tight ship. What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts and suggestions below.
Image Reference – Flickr Andrew Pike