Are Your Employees Something to Envy?

Whether it’s the little green-eyed monster or one of the seven deadly sins, envy is typically not something we’re proud of.  However, according to recent research by business networking giant LinkedIn, your employees might just have the skills your competitors are coveting.  What skills are those?  The answer might surprise you: soft skills.  In their recent national survey, 59% of hiring managers said soft skills were difficult to find (compared to hard skills at 53%) and 58% said that the lack of soft skills was limiting their ability to be productive as an organization.  Interpersonal communication, friendly personality, teamwork, emotional intelligence, adaptability and critical thinking were identified as more difficult to find than the requisite hard skills of a job.

Now, being a guy who experiences JOTES (Joy Of The Excel Spreadsheet), I love a good survey.  I especially love a survey that supports what I have made my career for the past 20 years – training in the relational skills (I prefer relational over soft, I think it’s more accurate).  And I really love a survey that essentially lets me say “I told ya so” (would that be pride or gluttony?).  I think we would all agree that most of the employee issues we run into as HR and training professionals aren’t about the technical aspects of how someone does their job.  Most of the issues tend to be around how people interact with others – the core of all relational skills.

This new research poses some interesting and important questions for employers around the topics of recruiting, developing, and retaining their employees:

Recruiting:  Based on the results of the LinkedIn survey, if you are struggling to find qualified talent who possess the relational skills your organization needs, you are not alone.  It might be time to not only review how you market your organization to qualified candidates, but also examine your selection strategies.  Various candidate tests and assessment may help you identify who in your recruiting pool possess the relational skills and personality characteristics you are looking for to fit your organization.

Development:  Can’t find what you need out in the market? There’s actually a silver lining in this cloud.  Relational skills can be learned.  It might be time to develop those skills in-house (or with a little help from MSEC). Granted, hiring for those skills is always a good thing, however, if the market isn’t giving you what you need, it might be time to reexamine your development strategy on effective conflict management, communication skills, teamwork, and collaboration skills.  Many organizations spend time (and money) developing their managers and leaders, but not in the relational skills of their frontline/foundational employees who keep the organization performing on a daily basis.  Now some of you might be thinking, “If I develop these skills in-house, my employees will just be ripe for poaching from other organizations!”  If that little voice is running through your head, you might want to revisit my August article.  That being said . . .

Retention:  So if employers can’t find talent with the relational skills they are looking for in the open market, they might just go somewhere else – your employees.  Given these in-demand skills, it is critical that employers pay attention to their retention practices.  Reviewing your compensation and benefits offerings, organizational culture, developmental opportunities and management practices are all key drivers of employee retention.

So remember, don’t get lazy or angry about today’s talent pool.   Take some pride in developing talent that every other employer will envy.