Case please find article attached please answer the following question
In your organization, how are soft skills assessed in the hiring process?
please find article attached please answer the following question
- In your organization, how are soft skills assessed in the hiring process?
- Are soft skills part of your organization’s professional development? If so, what format is used to deliver soft skills training? Do you think it is effective?
- A number of soft skills are mentioned in the article. Thinking as a manager/leader, what soft skills are most important to meet your team/unit’s performance goals?
72 HR MAGAZINE SUMMER 2021
The Hard Facts About
eing gifted at performing the technical
aspects of a job can take an employee
only so far. To become a stellar employee
or an admired leader requires an arsenal of skills that
are harder to measure but critical to success.
Dubbed “soft skills,” they are behaviors, personality
traits and work habits, such as collaboration, critical
thinking, perseverance and communication, that help
people prosper at work. Think of it this way: A talented
graphic designer might wow people with her creations,
but if she constantly misses deadlines or doesn’t listen
to feedback—leading to costly project delays or upset
clients—her career might stall.
There are many ways a lack of soft skills such as de-
pendability, time management and critical thinking
can derail an employee with solid technical skills. Ac-
cording to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report,
89 percent of recruiters say when a hire doesn’t work out,
it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills.
Perhaps realizing this, many employers are priori-
tizing soft skills during hiring. Monster’s The Future
of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook reported that
when employers were asked to name the top skills
they want in employees, they cited soft skills such as
dependability, teamwork/collaboration, f lexibility
While most people are hired for their technical
abilities, their soft skills give them “career durabil-
ity,” says Alexandra Levit, a workforce futurist and
author of Humanity Works: Merging Technologies
and People for the Workforce of the Future (Kogan
Page, 2018). She def ines that term as the ability to
acquire the skills, knowledge and mindset needed to
be an engaged and productive member of the team.
“For someone to be successful 10 years down the
road, they need to be resilient and be able to rein-
vent themselves in different learning environments,”
Why you should teach employees to be
more resilient, communicative and creative.
By Kate Rockwood
Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 72Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 72 5/21/21 12:39 PM5/21/21 12:39 PM
Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 73Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 73 5/21/21 12:39 PM5/21/21 12:39 PM
74 HR MAGAZINE SUMMER 2021
THE HARD FACTS ABOUT SOFT SKILLS
SORTING SOFT SKILLS
The beauty of soft skills is that they’re highly
transferable. Creativity, responsibility and
excellent communication skills can be ap-
plied to any job. But how can HR profes-
sionals tell which soft skills need shoring up
or matter most in their workplaces?
Conducting a skills or training needs as-
sessment can be a great way to find out, and
the HR team might already have much of
the information it needs, says Abby White,
SHR M-CP, CEO of Gró HR Consulting,
based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ask manag-
ers to look through their team members’
past performance reviews to identify soft-
skill weak spots as well as proficiencies
such as how employees respond to e-mail
or their attitudes during and involvement
in team meetings.
“ Watch for those t y pes of behav iors
where there’s a chance for improvement,”
Self-assessments and 360-degree feed-
back reports can be used in combination to
prioritize the soft skills employees need to
work on, says Di Ann Sanchez, SHRM-SCP,
founder of DAS HR Consulting LLC in Hurst,
Texas. She points to the surprising results of
her own past 360-degree feedback as an example of how
employees can learn from the way others perceive them.
“The lowest score in my 360 was always communication,
which shocked me because I think I’m a great communica-
tor,” Sanchez says.
But after learning that some co-workers found her style
intimidating, Sanchez asked to work with a communication
coach, who she says helped her to be more
aware of her audience. She stresses that it’s
also important for companies to consider
bias and cultural and gender differences
when evaluating soft skills.
“An aggressive communication style, for
example, might be treated as more accept-
able in men,” she says. “You need to be sensi-
tive to different gender perspectives but not
hold people to wildly different standards.”
To f ind out which soft skills are most
needed in an organization, look no further
than your most successful employees. See if
there are certain traits they share that allow
them to prosper in your workplace. Sanchez
also recommends that HR professionals ask
executives what their top four or five most-
wanted employee soft skills are to ensure
buy-in. And when in doubt, reread some of
your company’s literature.
“ Take a look at your company’s value
statements and think about your com-
pany’s culture,” Sanchez says. “Those are
your company’s priorities when it comes
to soft skills.”
ARE THEY TEACHABLE?
The path to teaching someone a technical
skill, such as how to drive using a stick shift, is tangible.
The process might not be pretty—picture lots of herky-jerky
braking and clutching—but it’s fairly clear.
Conversely, teaching someone how to be more patient, a
better team player or more innovative may not follow a pre-
determined formula, but it still can be done. While it’s true
that some people have innate personality traits that allow
MOST-WANTED SOFT SKILLS
What are the top skills employers are looking for?
A survey of 3,100 recruiters from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany,
the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden revealed the most in-demand skills:
Dependability Teamwork/ Problem-solving Flexibility
Source: The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook, Monster.
have a lot
to gain by
Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 74Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 74 5/21/21 12:40 PM5/21/21 12:40 PM
SUMMER 2021 H R M AG A Z I N E 7 5
them to evince certain soft skills more nat-
urally, these skills are also honed over time.
“Companies have a lot to gain by treating
soft skills as they would any technical skill,”
says Liz Cannata, vice president of human
resources for Chicago-based talent acqui-
sition company CareerBuilder.
Sometimes an employee is deficient in a
certain soft skill because of a lack of expe-
rience or a previous situation. White cites
the example of one of her employees who
appeared unable to solve problems inde-
pendently. But it wasn’t because the em-
ployee lacked the ability to make decisions.
It was because she had previously worked
for a micromanaging supervisor who never
allowed her to offer solutions. White encour-
aged the employee to come up with a po-
tential solution or two when an issue arose
before bringing the problem to her attention.
In cases like that, it’s important for com-
panies to foster an environment where it’s
OK for employees to make mistakes and
be vulnerable. Kristina Johnson, chief peo-
ple officer for San Francisco-based identity
and asset management company Okta Inc.,
says if such an environment doesn’t exist,
organizational culture can be at the root
of the problem.
“Imagine an organization where leaders approach ques-
tions and concerns and mistakes with empathy and under-
standing,” Johnson says. “Then consider a workplace that’s
aggressive and blame-focused, where employees are afraid
to make mistakes and too embarrassed to ask questions.
As you can imagine, employees will stick around at one
of those organizations much longer than
A recent Yale University study found that
people with emotionally intelligent supervi-
sors—those who are self-aware and empa-
thetic—were happier, more creative and more
innovative. On the flip side, 70 percent of the
employees whose managers were identified as
having little emotional intelligence said their
main feelings toward work were negative.
Like technical skills, soft skills can weaken if
they go unused. That’s why it’s important to
practice them continuously.
“Developing soft skills won’t be successful
in most cases using a one-and-done approach
like a single webinar or panel discussion,”
Cannata says. “No one really develops their
technical skills that way, either.”
Instead, the soft-skills training methods
that tend to work best are “flexible, shorter
and more frequent,” Cannata says.
It’s also a good idea for companies to of-
fer a variety of learning experiences. “Some
people will do better with written training;
others are more experiential,” says Mel Hen-
nigan, vice president of people at education
software company Symplicity Corp., based
in Arlington, Va. “Whenever possible, we work with the em-
ployee to figure out the approach that works best for them.”
While most people are eager to learn, Hennigan finds that
gaps between a training program’s design and objective and
between a training delivery style and an employee’s learning
style often get in the way of a successful outcome.
Cannata recommends using a combination of larger-group
training, mentoring programs, and self-guided program-
ming such as short, on-demand videos or podcasts.
It’s critical to show employees why this training is import-
ant. That might mean drawing a direct line between improv-
ing soft skills and achieving higher pay or a promotion.
If the company doesn’t have the resources to start a soft-
skills training or development program, it should consider
partnering with a university or nonprofit that specializes
in social emotional learning, emotional intelligence or con-
scious inclusion, Cannata says.
But there are also plenty of inexpensive and less-taxing
ways to improve soft skills in the workplace.
Some methods can be as simple as challenging employees
to up their time management game by using the Pomodoro
Technique for a week. This method recommends picking a
single task or project to focus on, setting a timer for 25 to 30
minutes, and working solely on that task. When the time is
up, you take a two- or three-minute break and then get back
to work for another 25 minutes. a
The three soft skills U.S. employers
have the most trouble finding:
36% Critical thinking
Source: Reimagining the Workforce 2021: Closing the Skills Gap
Through Education, Wiley Education Services.
S H R M . O R G / H R M A G A Z I N E
‘You need to
DI ANN SANCHEZ
Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 75Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 75 5/21/21 12:40 PM5/21/21 12:40 PM
Companies can also lean on in-house talent for informal
training sessions such as lunch-and-learns. Instead of fo-
cusing on a technical skill, a session might center on time
management or active listening skills. Also leave space
throughout the day for employees to talk about what’s go-
ing well with their work and, more importantly, what’s not.
“If you want to work on improving communication and
connecting within a small team, walk through everyone’s
approach to different scenarios, like high-stress or time-sen-
sitive situations,” Johnson says.
One of White’s favorite recent activities has been holding
a weekly book group for her team. Every Friday morning,
team members meet to talk about a different chapter of the
book they’re all reading and discuss what they learned and
how they will apply those lessons at work. So far, the group
has read 13 books, including The 5 Languages of Apprecia-
tion in the Workplace (Northfield Publishing, 2012) by Gary
Chapman and Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends
and Influence People (Simon and Schuster, 2011).
“I can hands-down say that someone has gotten at least two
major useful items out of each book,” White says. “They’re
also really good team-building exercises. People look forward
to collaborating with their colleagues on Friday mornings.”
T YPES OF TRAINING
For more-involved training on soft skills,
there are formats and technologies to
meet every budget and desired outcome.
But generally, those that require reflec-
tion and interaction from employees
“If people just listen to a presentation
or an online video, they’re not really get-
ting a chance to practice the skills they
learn,” Sanchez says.
Here are some soft-skill training meth-
ods to consider:
Virtual reality. Real-world experi-
ence is a terrific teacher, but virtual re-
ality might be the next best thing. A 2020
PwC survey found that virtual reality
learners were four times more focused
than e-learners and felt 275 percent more
confident to act on what they had learned.
Some companies offer virtual reality
simulations that mirror real-world sce-
narios, such as asking employees to re-
act to a customer complaint. Hotel and
resort company Best Western attributed
a 100 percent increase in its guest sat-
isfaction and loyalty score to its virtual
reality employee training program.
Online learning. There’s no shortage
of online classes or learning programs
that target soft skills. For added benefit,
consider ones that provide dialogue simulations that allow
employees to practice the skills they’ve learned.
Coaching/mentoring. Because of the expense, coaching
is typically used at only the highest levels of leadership, San-
chez says, but companies would be smart to build employ-
ees’ leadership skills from day one—especially considering
companies with higher levels of internal hiring have 41 per-
cent longer employee tenure. One way to do that is through
mentorship programs. Leveraging the soft skills of company
leaders, whether it’s done one-on-one or in groups, is an af-
fordable and beneficial practice. Nine in 10 workers who have
a mentor say they’re satisfied with their jobs, according to a
Interactive workshops. “Interactive, instructor-led work-
shops are the most compelling and impactful methods to
teach skills like emotional intelligence,” Johnson says. She
recommends workshops that simulate real-world scenarios
and give employees a chance to hear actionable feedback
based on their responses.
Gamification. Gamification adds a gamelike element to a
training session, which can be done in a number of ways.
Levit points to the innovative learning approach Slack uses
with its employees. The messaging app company created in-
teractive scenarios based on the Choose
Your Own Adventure children’s book series
by asking employees to pick a character,
read the person’s role and job duties, and
“then engage with a chatbot to perform
tasks and hone skills,” Levit says. “The end
result was a learning approach that allows
employees to fail or make choices in a safe
place and then evaluate and reflect on the
outcomes.” One study found that adding
a fun element like gamification boosts in-
formal learning in the workplace.
As with any kind of training, it’s import-
ant to evaluate the impact of soft-skills
training and tie it to your company’s key
metrics, such as performance review con-
versations and goal setting, Cannata says.
It’s also helpful to evaluate employees
before and after a major training session
and follow up on their performance at
the three-, six- and nine-month marks,
“Done right, this can be a huge benefit
for the company and the employee, espe-
cially for retention,” she says. “Even if the
employee doesn’t like it at the time because
it makes them uncomfortable, they can
see you’re making an investment in their
Kate Rockwood is a freelance writer
based in Chicago.
are the most
SUMMER 2021 H R M AG A Z I N E 77
Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 77Summer21 Feature-Soft Skills Rockwood.indd 77 5/21/21 12:48 PM5/21/21 12:48 PM
Copyright of HR Magazine is the property of Society for Human Resource Management and
its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the
copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email
articles for individual use.