Business complexity increases daily, cost and margin pressures renew the spotlight on hiring practices. To hire the best you need to understand what skills drive growth and profitability. To prosper in the new business environment the majority of companies look for technical skills and advanced degrees. Their assumption is hiring should focus on employees with analytical and technology skills. Bringing order from the chaos is the charge as companies go to battle each day. However, maybe it is time to focus with laser accuracy on the real skills that drive change and profitability.
Based on surveys from various sources over the past five years, the following list represent the most sought after skills deemed important by UK executives: Verbal Communication, Teamwork, Commerical Awareness, Analysing and Investigating, Self Initiative, Written Communicaiton, Planning and Organizing, Flexibility and Time Management. Notice not one of these skills are directly related to technical training or advanced degrees. These skills minus required technical knowledge will not be a successful hire either. The startling fact remains most sought after skills are those commonly not taught in universities. So what approach in hiring makes the most sense? Hire with focus on technical skills and provide training on the lacking interpersonal skills? Or focus hiring on the most sought after skills and perhaps provide technical training if it needed?
Of course the clear answer is that you want to hire both set of skills. This may be difficult since historically highly technical people can lack interpersonal and organizational skills. It is time to seriously integrate these survey findings into the corporate DNA. And add your expereience into resume.
Starting with hiring, going into new employee orientation, corporate policies on values, mission, marketing, and succession planning. Many of these survey skills can be summed up by understanding that emotional intelligence can be the differentiator for your company.
Human Resources should drive this change in hiring focus with the executive team. Demonstrating what successful candidates would look and sound like with these skills a robust hiring and career development process can be developed. This includes revamping management training, performance management, succession planning and promotion criteria. Each process should reflect the importance and measurement of these soft skills. Managers should especially be held accountable to demonstrate and instill the importance and development of these skills in current employees and hiring those who have them. These soft skills are very difficult to place within a person if they do not exist. Many times expectations of making a non communicative person different is an exercise in futility.
This will be a slow persistent cultural change for many UK companies. If the CEO does not champion the importance of these skills and more importantly apply the skills on a daily basis this focus will never survive. The company will revert to managing in reactive high pressure, fighting fire mode. The pressure to deliver will increase, more hours will be required by employees lowering morale and eventually burnout and turnover will increase. The single message is that choosing to hire those without these soft skills at your own peril.