It’s important to balance hard and soft skills

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When organizations grow, they find it difficult to manage their staff; be it performance appraisals, staff demands, job training in newer areas and giving them specific objectives. They need candidates with hard skills who can hit the bull’s eye once hired and soft skills to fit in the organizational culture. Hard skills are specific, technical abilities that can be defined and measured. Abilities such as computer programming, writing, math, engineering, reading and statistics are hard skills. In case of hard skills the rules stay the same regardless of which company, circumstance or people one works with.

By contrast, soft skills are skills where the rules changes depending on the company culture and people one works with. Soft skills are intangible, and harder to quantify. Manners, etiquette, getting along with others, team playing, listening and kindness are some of the soft skills most required.

As the business world is changing very fast and survival of businesses is becoming very difficult companies are affected by a bad hire, resulting in a significantly increased cost-per-hire due to lost time and opportunity, poor performance and the need to recruit and train another worker. Firms keep rethinking the hiring strategies in terms of processes in the pre-hiring engagement and assessments which would help them identify candidates that will make an effective hire. Most of firms prefer using their own standards of hiring. Wrong hiring leads to huge losses in terms of money, organizational culture, rules and norms everything.  Organizations have realized that hiring is a creative function which requires its own assessment standard.

While certain hard skills are necessary for a position, employers are looking increasingly for job applicants with particular soft skills. This is because, while it is easy for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill. Organizations often experience that smart employees are difficult to handle. They are good at their job, especially in the hard skills but they spoil the culture because of their egos. They want to be recognized, they don’t like to be told what to do and what not to, and they think no end of their capabilities. Such people spoil the work culture and become difficult day by day to handle because they hate being micromanaged and told what to do.

Most gifted employees are indispensable, even if they are difficult people, organizations need to deal with them, because they cannot be replaced easily. At times some well-mannered, well-referred employees turns up to be hopeless morons. With no amount of training some people just don’t learn the requisite skills. Another fact is that hard skills can often be taught more easily than soft skills can. The world is not perfect, and there are no situations which are perfect.

How hard and soft skills matter?

Organizations need to look at their recruiting strategy every now and then and determine what updates are required and can be implemented. They need to try newer technologies and make sure that their recruiting strategies work effectively in the “talent war”. Job shadowing is catching up as practice in organizations, where prospective hires are absorbed into a typical workday to determine their fit within an organization. A more common practice is giving the candidate a mock assignment, in which candidates are observed and individuals are given chance to exhibit their capabilities. Candidates are asked to come up with their methods to solve problems in some mock or real work-related situations.

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Even today, referrals are arguably one of the best sources of hiring. Whether through social media or company programs, referrals are used by employers to tap networks beyond what the company can reach for themselves. For employers who are adopting new technologies and next-gen recruiting platforms, activating employee-based social referrals is becoming an important aspect of their recruiting strategy. Facebook has over 900 million users and LinkedIn is over 100 million as well. With every additional user on social media, the network reach of an individual continues to expand further through first, second, third…. and increasing levels of connections.

Although, social recruiting strategy cannot be built entirely on posting and tweeting job openings to social media. Organizations need to adapt and take advantage of the newest methods of engaging with their socially savvy audience and stakeholders in two-way communication. Engagement via careers sites, Twitter chats, Facebook page comments and many other social media activities can help. Most target candidates and top talent hanging out on social media, employee referrals have taken a whole new meaning.

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Advice to applicants is emphasizing on both Hard and Soft Skills in their resume. This way, even if the applicant lacks a particular hard skill required by the company, balancing it with a particular soft skill would be valuable in the position. For example, if the job involves working on a number of group projects, the candidate must emphasize his/her experience and skills as a team player and ability to communicate with team members. Although employers require typically equally include both technical and soft skills, it is almost always the latter that they value more. Sure, on paper the employer might treat the two types of skills as they are equally important, but employers who are focusing on the big picture (and most of them are, more or less) will value soft skills more. That being said, it is important to balance both skills in the resume.

Employers pay close attention to the following traits: teamwork, attitude, communication, creative thinking, work ethic, decision making, positivity, work drive, leadership, time management, motivation, flexibility, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, conflict resolution, empathy, diligence, etc.

Communication skill is the most important soft skill. The rules for how to be effective at communications change and depend on the audience and the content one needs to communicate.  Communication must be crisp and clear; a candidate might be good at communicating with fellow employees, but might struggle to communicate clearly with superiors about progress of a project and support required for further progress.  This can mar the person’s scope.

The biggest dark fact is that there are no perfect people in the world, hence an organization should imagine of hiring them. Another fact is that in fast-paced world, employees are moving around from job to job more frequently, seeking a company that allows them to maximize their potential and allow them to achieve a better work-life balance. It’s hard for organizations to find smart, capable and self-aware people. The more employers become fanciful, the more they need to create differentiation in their hiring strategies.

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