At LearnLaunch’s 2019 Across Boundaries Conference, Ryan Craig, Managing Director University Ventures, kicked off the Boston event by highlighting a lack of soft skills for those entering the workforce from high school and college. Although the term originates from the early 1970’s, LinkedIn recently identified soft skills as one of their top three Global Talent Trends of 2019 , communicating that 80% of individuals surveyed felt that soft skills are increasingly crucial to company success. LinkedIn survey participants listed their top five soft skills as creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management.
However, despite this established insight, most interview processes don’t yet contain the strategies to evaluate soft skills effectively and without bias.
Assessing Soft Skills
Measurable hard skills are critical to employee performance, but the decision to hire a candidate more often is a result of their soft skills. Despite the increasing sophistication of recruitment processes, many hiring managers still assess soft skills through social cues during in-person interviews. Terms such as “good collaborator, seemed nervous and not a team player” are commonplace during feedback sessions with stakeholders. Observations like these from experienced interviewers are essential but could be relied upon more with the backup of unbiased data.
Many organizations do not possess the ability to assess traits formally and Ed Tech companies are not exempt from these struggles. Most issues stem from a lack of formal structure, technology support, or supportive data. This lack of structured process has made assessing soft skills consistently and accurately difficult and has robbed executive teams of the ability to gather and evaluate hiring trends over time.
The Renaissance Network (TRN) conducted an internal study of Ed Tech field sales placements and viewed their on-the-job performance in relation to data driven testing results (TRN Assessment customized by role), grading both hard and soft skills. Using three years of data (’15-’17), TRN discovered that four key traits were most linked to job success and retention in these sales roles: two hard skills, logical problem solving and vocabulary, and two soft skills, intensity and assertiveness. And the data pointed to a higher intensity (soft skill related to emotional vigor when overcoming challenges) evaluation as the strongest predicter of sustained success in these business development roles.
Four Key Traits Related to Job Success and Retention
Developing an Assessment Structure
It is crucial to identify which traits will deliver success in your company. This can be a comprehensive process and having clear definitions will help to determine objective final characteristics. Utilize your current employees, including top performers, to establish skills required to successfully navigate future organizational needs. There is also technology that assists in defining key traits for your organization.
“Five years ago, we began utilizing assessments to gain increased data on soft and hard skills related to on-the-job performance and culture fit. As a result, we can consistently provide comprehensive and unbiased insight for each candidate.”
Lisa Sacchetti, CEO – The Renaissance Network
Once key traits are established, consider using online tools to assess potential candidates quickly and efficiently. These assessments must be intuitive both for the candidate to take and for all stakeholders to interpret. The content and output should be customized by role and verifiable scientifically. Another key point is to make sure that the candidate is comfortable taking the assessment and has a clear understanding of its relevance to the overall interview process. Establishing this understanding will develop trust with the candidate and will improve the whole experience. The conclusion from this data collection can inform the hiring manager’s questions during the next round of in-person interviews. A watch-out: stakeholders must be mindful that this data does not entirely reduce the interviewer’s susceptibility to unconscious bias.
Soft skills have always been necessary to thrive in a work environment and to develop productive client/partner relations. Still, there is a high percentage of companies that struggle to provide accurate, predictive and unbiased evaluations of candidates’ soft skills. Hiring managers and search organizations should focus on assessing soft skill sets; the best organizations consistently use an assessment tool to complement behavioral and situational questions to achieve an accurate 360-degree view of a candidate before hiring.