Roughly 18 months ago, we wrote about why soft skills are becoming as much of a commodity as knowledge-based skills. Due to this trend, more hiring opportunities worldwide consider these skills than ever before. We take a look at how you can leverage this movement into a powerful force which works to your benefit.

Soft skills must link to company culture

First of all, it’s as imperative as ever to have a solid company culture in place. If you’re going to pin certain skills for development, you’ll probably want to tie them to your corporate culture at some stage. Furthermore, this aids both culture and skill development, as the two will reinforce each other and tend to dovetail well.

You will also need to make sure that individuals choose a development path that is beneficial to both sides. This is partly logical and partly cultural. The former keeps development boundaries relevant to the business, while the latter allows for continued education progression.

Fight against soft skills misconceptions

Far too many SA organisations don’t focus on these skills because of a lack of clarity and understanding. You will come across many objections to hiring with a stronger emphasis on soft skills. Among them are lack of perceived relevance, difficulty to see added value, low consideration for interpersonal abilities, and apparent difficulty with integration.

As a result, a large number of entities still consider soft skills as second-tier requirements. Furthermore, they take little action to address the inherent skill imbalance. This is also one of the driving factors behind employee stagnation. It can lead to staff being far too “uniform” and unable to diversify their talents without struggle.

Other misconceptions include time taken to achieve soft skill proficiency and hesitation to apply “non-beneficial” training. Soft skills are actually easier to achieve success with, because they are largely based on repetition. Furthermore, the time taken for beneficial application can easily be worked into core tasks. Finally, they have added benefits in helping to set standards and raise the quality of working bar.

Hiring considerations

It should be a natural progression: all else being equal, you would choose to employ the candidate with a greater array of soft skills. Not only do they show themselves to be willing to learn outside of their core requirements, they would also be able to add more intrinsic value once in your organisation.

What do you do when they lack the soft skills inherent in your other staff, though? You have a few good options at your disposal here.

Firstly, hire the one with learning capacity. While they may not be on par with soft skills, look for a feature which shows they’re eager to learn more. Most of all, a feature which shows a desire for ongoing learning. This will help set the tone for soft skills training and integration for the employee’s entire work span.

Secondly, include the importance of soft skills (and plenty of material) in your job interviews and induction training period. It is vital that you show the standard of your organisation early on. This will help new staff align their mindset with your culture. It also sets the expectation bar at the level it needs to be for successful integration and learning.

Finally, you can include soft skills as part of a continued education requirement within new staff’s Key Performance Areas. It may take some time to filter through all employees, but in the long run you will have a pool of personnel who take charge of their own improvement. Factor in the natural benefits of including soft skills in this model, and it’s a win-win.

Adept is aware of the significant contribution of soft skills in the professional environment. We take every opportunity to encourage development of such skills and talents. Our staff enjoy the freedom to develop interests that foster better working relationships with both colleagues and clients.