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Working smarter

Soft skills are key to performance

How your employees perform and handle their responsibilities is paramount to your business’ success.

However, when you recruit for a particular job, do you identify what set of personal qualities will lead to outstanding employee performance? Both hard and soft skills are crucial considerations in the recruitment process, but often the importance of soft skills is overlooked to the detriment of the business.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HARD SKILLS AND SOFT SKILLS?

Hard skills:

  • refer to knowledge gained from education and working on the job

  • refer to teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify

  • are generally easy to identify.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • in-depth knowledge of a particular software or app

  • specialisation in a trade

  • technical acumen.

Soft skills:

  • are known as "people skills" or "interpersonal skills"

  • relate to the way you interact with other people

  • have characteristics of intelligence, personality, and “common sense”

  • are subjective, making them much harder to quantify.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • teamwork

  • communication

  • flexibility

  • patience

  • time management.

The challenge of identifying soft skills

You can identify hard skills from a resume. They are much easier to recognise and quantify than soft skills.

They are teachable abilities or skill sets and include things like a university degree or certificate, or proficiencies in things like computer programming, speaking or reading a foreign language, machine operation or a typing speed. 

Soft skills, on the other hand, are those characteristics that we usually bundle under the headings of intelligence or personality, or simply “common sense”. Also known as "people skills" or "interpersonal skills," soft skills centre around the way you relate to and interact with other people.

These factors are very difficult to measure in an interview despite being so important in determining whether a person will be a great, good or poor fit for a job. This is because they are subjective skills, making them much harder to quantify. 

Improve your selection process to incorporate soft skills

You can improve the hiring process in your organisation dramatically by breaking the process down into key components.

Firstly, undertake position analysis and do your homework to quantify what it really takes to be successful in this role. Then review and analyse the responsibilities and collect information about the duties, necessary skills, outcomes, and work environment of the particular position. Articulate the most important outcomes or contributions needed to ensure effectiveness in the position.

Find a pool of the “right people” who fit your hard skills criteria. You can now undertake a candidate analysis by working out where they sit on the soft skills area.

Undertake an assessment or psych testing at this final stage. Consider outsourcing a specialist provider to undertake the final assessment. This is no different from ringing a plumber when your drains are blocked or an IT specialist when your computer goes down. Technology allows candidates to be assessed at home or at your workplace, with results available immediately.

A final note

Given the variability in human performance, taking time to find the right people for the right positions in your organisation is well worth the effort. The outcomes of the process outlined above will also help you with developing a job description, your future recruiting plans, performance development planning, and your performance management system.

Jim Collins, a renowned strategist and author, states emphatically and repeatedly that great companies don’t start with “where” but with “who”. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline – first the people, then the direction – no matter how dire the circumstances. This is what takes a company from good to great.

My Business Workplace has several recruitment-related resources including a recruitment checklist ready to download today.

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