Wanted: Human Skills

Making the difference between employee success and failure are skills that don’t appear on a resume, but can these “human skills” be taught?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that there are key skills that consistently contribute to employee success, no matter what the employee’s level. They are the softer skills – skills that make us better people and give us a high “get-it factor.”

They are skills like listening, empathy, creative thinking, focus, a solution orientation, accountability, stakeholder management, self-motivation and the ability to take risks and fail better, again and again.

These skills have always been sought, but are now more desirable than ever, as companies begin to ask every employee to behave as a leader.The market is craving soft skills because they are a necessary complement to the skyrocketing need for STEM experts. In fact, in a 2018 study by LinkedIn, 57% of leaders said “soft skills are more important than hard skills.”

Soft, or what we like to call “human skills,” elevate a person’s technical and professional experiences, allowing them to ramp up fast, and deliver meaningful insights and practical solutions so teams can make steady progress every single day.

“Hire for the skills you can’t teach.” It’s advice I received early on and have taken to heart my entire career.  The question is – are human skills teachable or are they innate?

The truth is, human skills exist within us all, but not everyone exhibits them to the extent necessary in the workplace. I believe these skills (and behaviors) can be taught, in the sense that they can be leveraged to potential — but only if leaders emphasize and reward the right behaviors.

Here are three ways to improve the impact of softer skills in the workplace:

1)     Set clear priorities and expectations about what success looks like. Are you measuring success based on what was achieved, or based on both what was achieved, and howit was achieved? Establish a clear set of behavioral expectations and priorities for your team.

2)     Incentivize individuals based on these priorities, as well as their business goals.Include measures for soft skills in your performance management process. Recognize and celebrate teams and individuals who are doing things like listening, showing empathy and creative thinking, collaborating across siloes, and taking calculated risks.

For example, a sports and entertainment company we work with at Notion Consulting used to host a ceremony where leaders awarded a person and team a “best failure” trophy each year. It was an opportunity to recognize people who took risks and failed spectacularly, using all their technical and “human” skills.

3)     Create a workplace where a balance between human and technical skills is the norm. Here are a few examples of how you can influence the growth of soft skills alongside technical ones:

·       To encourage teamwork and innovative thinking, create opportunities for individuals who wouldn’t normally cross paths to collaborate.

·       To build empathy, incorporate storytelling in your corporate messaging wherever possible.

·       To encourage a solution-oriented mindset, spend more time developing people who are generating ideas and solutions than on those who are consistently negative or finding fault without alternative suggestions.

·       To improve self-awareness, provide leadership development opportunities as part of your learning and development curriculum.

As the tight labor market continues, employers will continue to search deeply to find candidates who have the right combination of technical and “human” skills. The gaps in “getting it” may or may not be obvious when an employee is first hired, but they are critical for long-term career success.

With focused effort, you can amplify the human skills and behaviors that impact this success. Providing structure to your priorities, expectations, programs, policies, and experiences will help your people make the most of their hard and soft skills — and ultimately, provide lasting benefits to your employees, the community and your business.

The ‘most promising’ professions by 2028

Is your career in HR on track?

The 'most promising' professions by 2028

BY Rachel Ranosa 12 Sep 2019Share

The rise of workplace automation may cast a shadow on the future of work for those in labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing.

But for knowledge workers – particularly those in management – some professions will only continue to grow in the next decade, according to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal.

Among the professions expected to enjoy a steady rise in employment by 2028 is human resources management. It ranks #35 out of the 800 careers analysed by the WSJ.

READ MORE: Is the future of HR, no HR?

In the US, the projected annual openings for HR managers, all the way through to 2028, is at 14,400. Last year, the industry employed 152,100 managers – with a median salary of US$113,300.

The number is predicted to rise by 7.1% to 162,900 positions in total, or the equivalent of 10,800 new HR manager jobs created in the span of a decade.

Top 10 professions by 2028
The three “most promising careers” by 2028 all require management expertise:

  • General and operations managers (165,000+ jobs)
  • Financial managers (104,700+)
  • Managers, all others (68,500+)

Other professions in the top 10 call for highly technical and specialist knowledge as well as years of training and experience:

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  • Application software developer (241,500+)
  • Lawyers (50,100+)
  • Computer and information systems managers (46,800+)
  • Sales managers (20,600+)
  • Management analysts (118,300+)
  • Systems developers (42,600+)
  • Medical and health services managers (71,600+)

“Many of America’s fastest-growing jobs, such as personal-care aides and fast-food workers, pay the lowest wages in the nation, while the highest-compensated professions, like doctors and lawyers, have few openings a year,” writes Soo Oh of WSJ.

“Registered nurses and software developers hit the sweet spot, pairing relatively high wages with robust demand – making them among the most promising careers in our analysis.”


There Is A Growing Skills Gap Between What Employers Want And What Employees Offer – How Your Career Can Benefit

Growing skills gap requires continual training and retraining
Growing skills gap requires continual training and retrainingGETTY

A survey of 600 human resource leaders by Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace shows that 64% (nearly two-thirds) see a skills gap in their companies. This is the second year the Closing the Skills Gap surveyhas been done, and the 64% who see a gap is up from 52% last year. As a result, the companies surveyed are expanding how they get the skills they need, including:

1.      Expanding the candidate pool – over 60% of respondents have hired people considered retired or unemployed. 90% said they would hire a candidate that doesn’t have a 4-year college degree

2.      Using AI rather than retraining workers – 40% of respondents preferred to invest in AI over upskilling

3.      Hiring gig workers to fill the gap – 47% of respondents hire temp over full-time employees for needed skills

If you are currently employed, you need to continually update your skillsToday In: Leadership

You need updated skills to remain competitive, and while this benefits your company, do not assume your company will do it for you. Another finding from Closing The Gap 2019 was that less than half of companies (48%) spend more than $500 per year on continuing education for each employee. This means you need to upskill yourself.

Pay attention to what your company is hiring for and which departments are getting management attention and resources. See if you can work in these areas. This could be a temporary move, such as working on a cross-functional project that allows you to collaborate with the priority groups. Or make a lateral move if you are not wedded to your current role or want to take advantage of an emerging area. At the very least, take advantage of any training your company offers. You can also design your own training, including relying on mentors, your alma mater or professional associations.

If you are unemployed, re-target your job search to a growing area

Technology skills are in-demand, but a survey by LinkedIn of the top 25 hard skills also included the non-tech areas of people management, sales leadership and translation among the top 10 skills. Dedicate some of your job search activity to training for in-demand skills, getting hands-on experience through volunteering or temp work and updating your resume and other marketing to include these skills as keywords, so prospective employers can find you.

The Closing The Gap 2019 survey confirms that employers hire from the retired and unemployed ranks — it’s a myth that you can’t get back into the workforce after time away. The survey also confirms that employers hire for temporary roles. Temp work is a great foot-in-the-door strategy, and temp work helps your career even if you don’t get hired full-time.

If you are a consultant or entrepreneur, help employers fill the growing gap

One reason the right skills are hard to find is that the pace of change makes necessary skills temporary. 40% of survey respondents estimated that skills are usable for four years or less. Does it make sense for employers to invest so much in hiring, training and retraining only to have to do it again in a short amount of time? This conundrum is an opportunity for a business that can provide the right skills at the right time.

Of course, there is still opportunity in providing the hiring, training and retraining. The survey also highlighted AI as a solution companies are increasingly looking at. As a business owner, look at your offerings and see if any of them can be marketed as a solution to the growing skills gap problem.

A problem for employers is an opportunity for your career

Whether you are employed, unemployed or self-employed, there are ways to make the skills gap work in your favor. Paying attention to what companies need (such as closing the skills gap) is a best practice for managing your career. Companies hire and retain people who provide solutions to their problems. The best job security is to be a problem-solver.