The soft skills that matter most

by Brett Henebery30 Aug 2017
Soft-skill intensive occupations expected to account for two-thirds (63%) of all jobs in Australia by 2030, according to a report released in May. The Deloitte Access Economics report shows that while the Australian workforce has a strong soft-skill base, demand for soft skills still exceeds supply by up to 45%. So what does this mean for workplace training moving forward?

A new report released this week revealed the specific types of soft skills that employers are looking for, how they evaluate them and how they impact career advancement opportunities.

The report by iCIMS Inc, a provider of cloud-based talent acquisition solutions, identified the top three soft skills that recruiting professionals value most in a job candidate.

These were problem-solving (62%), adaptability (49%) and time management (48%).

The top three personality traits recruiting professionals value most in a job candidate included professionalism (71%), drive (50%) and enthusiasm (49%).

The business areas where soft skills are more important than hard skills include customer service (67%), human resources (67%) and sales/marketing (53%).

Daniel Pecharich, senior manager of recruiting at DISH Network defined the soft skills he looks for in candidates.

“We hire for three things at DISH – energy, intelligence, and the need to achieve. We believe these characteristics are innate to our employees and essential for the company’s success,” Pecharich said.

“DISH employees are inquisitive, not afraid to challenge assumptions and are hungry for knowledge.”

Josh Wright, iCIMS chief economist, said the US labor market has been growing polarised between high-skill and low-skill jobs, but common to both ends of the spectrum is the need for soft skills.

“Whether home health aides or white-collar data scientists, the human element is the key to many of today’s fastest growing jobs,” he said.

However, Dr Marcus Bowles, Director of Institute for Working Futures and DeakinDigital Strategic Consultant, says these skills have never been ‘soft’ because they are often very hard to get.

“Transferable skills, like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and emotional judgement, are essential for leaders, as well as the rest of the workforce,” Dr Bowles told L&D Professional.

“In the workforce of the future, people will be taking more leadership roles in their regular work. In other words, a normal job role will require people to do what we used to think leaders do.”

Dr Bowles said this includes understanding the customer, looking at the implications of what you are doing, collaborating with colleagues, and (in many cases) advocating for the customer to achieve outcomes that other people hadn’t thought about.

“That could be happening at a very low level,” said Bowles. “The leader of the future will be just about everyone.”

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