Long time readers of the blog might recall my efforts to emphasize the importance of soft skills. Beginning eight years ago I wrote about the ability to get along with others. If you don’t have it, you will have fewer friends and weaker relationships. If you do not know how to get along with others you will not be a serious contributor to your company. You will detract from productivity.
Today, Kate Davidson reports in the Wall Street Journal that employers across America are bemoaning the fact that their young hires are sorely deficient in soft skills.
The job market’s most sought-after skills can be tough to spot on a résumé.
Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers.
Those traits, often called soft skills, can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.
Depending on the industry, different soft skills are required:
As the labor market tightens, competition has heated up for workers with the right mix of soft skills, which vary by industry and across the pay spectrum—from making small talk with a customer at the checkout counter, to coordinating a project across several departments on a tight deadline.
Companies are desperate to find the right kind of employees, employees who can get along with other people, work together productively, cooperate and coordinate effort.
“We’ve never spent more money in the history of our firm than we are now on recruiting,” said Keith Albritton, chief executive of Allen Investments, an 84-year-old wealth-management company in Lakeland, Fla.
In 2014, the firm hired an industrial psychologist who helped it identify the traits of its top-performing employees, and then developed a test for job candidates to determine how closely they fit the bill.
In the increasingly complex financial-services world, advisers often collaborate with accountants, attorneys and other planning professionals, Mr. Albritton said. That means the firm’s associates must be able to work in teams. “You can’t just be the general of your own army,” he said.
Now, where might today’s young people have learned that each individual should be the general of his own army? Hmmm. Could it be that they learned it in school when they were having their self-esteem puffed up by teachers who believe that therapy is more important than education? Could it be that they learned it from political leaders, especially our current president, who does not care about getting along with the opposition party, who does not respect the balance of powers but pretends that he is the general of his own army?
As I have often suggested, we must, when considering sociocultural trends, give full weight to the importance of the example set by those who are in charge—like our president.
Anyway, poor soft skills mean more misunderstanding, more miscommunication, more drama and more wasted time. The result: decreased productivity:
A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58% say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their company’s productivity.
In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.
To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.
One restaurant manager bemoaned the absence of soft skills in her employees:
“I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it’s hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic,” she said.
God help us, but today’s young people, especially members of the much derided millennial generation have no manners and a highly faulty work ethic.
When employers want to find out about an potential hire’s soft skills, they do what employers have been doing since the beginning of business. They invite him or her out for dinner, in the company of his or her spouse:
At Two Bostons, a small chain of pet boutiques outside Chicago, owner AdreAnne Tesene conducts at least three rounds of interviews before she hires someone.
For higher-level positions, she invites job candidates and their significant others out to dinner with the rest of the management team, “so we can see how they treat their family.” She also has her employees fill out an evaluation of a new co-worker after 90 days.
It’s not just about how they treat their families. It’s about how they treat the busboy. It’s about whether or not they have good table manners. Someone who has bad manners is rude, self-centered and inconsiderate. You cannot get along with other people if you are rude, self-centered and inconsiderate.
Unfortunately, if one of these young millennials goes to therapy he will discover that his bad manners are a good thing, a blow against the patriarchy, against inequality and against capitalism. He might even learn that his bad manners are signs that he is a creative individual, someone who does not conform to social norms. The result: not only will he be lacking in soft skills but he will believe that they are for chumps.
As he settles in to his old room in his parents’ house, he will have plenty of time to figure out why his job prospects have been so dim.