Soft skills - a solution to skills shortages in 2024
What will the biggest challenge for hiring managers and recruiters be in 2024? Whilst it’s hard to predict, on a recent recruitment webinar, 47% of attendees felt overcoming skills shortages would be the greatest obstacle, with an increase in employees moving roles and a shortage of experienced individuals fitting hiring budgets.
So how do we overcome the issues surrounding hiring staff, training, and retention? How important is it to provide a positive candidate experience throughout the recruitment process and could hiring the right soft skills be a real solution to this problem?
Skills shortage isn’t a completely new issue but, post-Covid, some sectors have taken a harder hit than others with some employees transferring careers in 2020 out of necessity and not returning to their earlier roles after retraining. So how do we overcome the lack of exacting skills? Recently, I used the soft skills approach when hiring. I initially thought that I needed to find people with x amount of relevant experience, but it became apparent through the process that the right attitude, ability to learn, and finding someone who cares about their work was far more important. I set simple tests to make sure the minimum requirements could be assessed, everything else could be taught. And it’s been a great success!
As the hiring market is changing, the key throughout the recruitment process is effective and constructive communication. Potential employees want to see the human side of a company that they may work for, employers want to see the person behind the CV, and generationally this is becoming a major factor when job hunting. Candidates don’t mind being told they aren’t successful; they would rather hear from their contact. Likewise, a company would rather be declined by a candidate or receive feedback from them rather than having radio silence. Personal connection is key to engagement and ensuring the experience is a positive one on all sides. Candidates particularly enjoy meeting line managers early on in the process to connect with the company and specifically the role that they are applying to; it increases initial engagement and communication massively both ways.
So why are soft skills becoming so important? First, you need to ask, what soft skills make your organisation thrive, and, as a candidate, what type of culture are you looking to join? Employer culture and employee personality need to match, there needs to be a synergy for the pairing to work long term and at the root of this success are those soft skills. Think about the lists we all see on job descriptions: results driven, detail orientated, enthusiastic, ambitious, teamwork, ability to communicate, flexible, adaptable…. these are all soft skills. However, when you apply to a job or review a CV, experience is still generally the focus. How many years of experience are required? What level of proficiency in a computer package is needed? Has the person worked in a particular industry? These are all aspects which can be taught, soft skills are generally more inherent, and they can have a real impact on the success of a team if the right balance is created. Of course, any roles which legally require specific qualifications will be more rigid, however, a considerable proportion of positions have more flexibility.
Companies can still assess soft skills providing they can identify which ones relate most closely to their overall values and the role in question. Likewise, candidates can also evaluate whether the environment is right for them through each stage of the interview process. Testing at interview, therefore, can incorporate those soft skills where candidates can apply life experience and logic to their answers.
If we look ahead, with AI being the future of the business world and some manual tasks being automated, hiring soft skills now will enable organisations to seamlessly thrive over and above their competitors with employees feeling more connected to and passionate about the businesses they are working for.