Soft skills needed with business savvy

by 20 Feb 2007

THE IMPORTANCE of finding employees who are strong on soft skills as well as business and who are tech-savvy is a key issue for employers over the coming year, according to a recent study.

This issue also makes the task of attracting talented candidates increasingly difficult for employers, according to Gemma Avon, regional manager of Link Recruitment, which conducted the research.

“As businesses consume more and more human resources, as candidate supply decreases and as we become a truly global community, the issue of finding business and technical savvy professionals will continue to take centre stage,” she said.

As a result, Avon said measuring technical and soft skills during the recruitment process is a challenge, and interviews, reference checking and testing and profiling may not be enough.

“In a marketplace where three to five years’ loyal service is becoming less common and two years’ service is the new acceptable tenure, employers are looking for ways to retain their staff to achieve at least a minimum return on their employment investment.”

This means that once candidates have joined an employer, the next challenge is to continually develop them as they now demand in order to retain them, Avon said.

“In a marketplace where the demand for business and technically savvy candidates exceeds supply, it is the responsibility of the employer to initiate the employer-employee relationship.”

When hiring quality people, it is critical that those responsible for the recruitment process are highly competent in behavioural-based interviewing techniques, remembering that previous on-the-job behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, said Avon.

Helen Lyons, HR director at the University of Western Sydney, said soft skills were increasingly important in its recruiting process.

The university recently undertook a campaign for its heads of school, looking for leadership skills as well as subject matter expertise and, in doing so, targeted behavioural factors with respect to the individual when recruiting. “Following that, as people have joined this organisation, we’ve been providing them with leadership programs, coaching and individual coaching so that it’s obvious they’re not alone as they commit to this journey,” she said.

“We will say to candidates: ‘You have a tremendous capability set, let’s look at the gaps’,” said Lyons. “We really try and take them down the path of the self-awareness piece so that they then start to understand, perhaps for the first time in their life, the impact that they have on people around them.

“Then as part of performance indicators, we look at that leadership piece, which requires business savvy or commercial acumen, subject matter expertise and people skills.”

Attracting and hiring quality people

Soft skills are critical to the execution of professional and technical duties, according to Gemma Avon, regional manager of Link Recruitment. For tasks such as managing information, managing risk, disciplining staff, analysing data and managing occupational health and safety, technical and soft skills combine to produce the desired outcome. Avon said the following points will assist in attracting and hiring quality people:

Be a place where people want to work

Ensure you have a robust recruitment strategy and trained people who can execute it

Understand that employees come from diverse backgrounds and have different needs (for example, generation Y, overseas applicants and women)

Be prepared to offer your people ongoing opportunities for flexibility, up-skilling and on-the-job training in both technical and soft skills


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