Balancing hard and soft skills: Important to balance people and technical skills; know why

Published: February 19, 2018 5:45:23 AM

It’s a fact that while it is easy to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill. Organisations often experience that smart employees are difficult to handle.

hard skills, soft skills, resumeIt has been observed that when organisations grow, they find it increasingly difficult to manage their staff—starting right from the exact fit, regular attendance of employees, policies and procedures, employees bad-moulting the organisation, safety of organisation in terms of vulnerable information and material.

It has been observed that when organisations grow, they find it increasingly difficult to manage their staff—starting right from the exact fit, regular attendance of employees, policies and procedures, employees bad-moulting the organisation, safety of organisation in terms of vulnerable information and material. Organisations require candidates with hard skills who can hit the bull’s eye once hired and soft skills to fit in the organisational culture. Hard skills are specific, technical abilities that can be defined and measured. Abilities such as computer programming, writing, maths, accounting, engineering, reading and statistics are some of the hard skills. For ages, employers around the world focus on providing the hard skills to their staff; employees at lower levels of work are trained in hard skills, seldom they lack soft skills. By contrast, soft skills are skills where the rule changes depending on the company’s culture and the people one works with. Soft skills are intangible, and are difficult to quantify. Manners, etiquette, getting along with others, team spirit, listening and kindness are some of the soft skills which are most required. Soft skills are also called people skills. Organisations make sure that people at top levels are good with soft skills. Companies get affected with each bad hire, resulting in significantly increased cost-per-hire due to waste of time and waste of opportunity. Somebody who is technically good, but lacks manners and decorum can spoil the work culture. But due to their technical skills, such workers are indispensable. They become difficult to deal with at times; organisations need to tolerate them, because they cannot be replaced easily. Whereas some well-mannered, well-behaved employees lack requisite hard skills, they become useless to the organisation.

It’s a fact that while it is easy to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill. Organisations often experience that smart employees are difficult to handle. They are good at their job, especially in the hard skills, but they spoil the culture because of their ego. They want to be recognised, they don’t like to be told what to do and what not to, and they think no end of their capabilities. Such people spoil the work culture and become difficult day by day to handle because they hate being micromanaged and told what to do.
Candidates need to bring diverse elements to the table, and hiring managers need to give equal weight to factors such as a person’s experience, cultural fit and soft skills. There is no one formula of be-all and end-all in recruitment. In positions to be filled in hard skills area, hard skills may be given 75% of marks, the balance 25% to the person’s soft skills that need to be observed during the interview. For example, if a foreman on a shop floor who is good with his knowledge of machines and lathe and knows the process also well, but if he lacks the skills to get work done from his assistants, he is not fit for the foreman’s job.

Talent war: Organisations keep struggling in their “talent war”. Job shadowing is catching up as practice in organisations, where prospective hires are absorbed into a typical workday to determine their fit within an organisation. A more common practice is giving the candidate a mock assignment, in which candidates are observed and individuals are given chance to exhibit their capabilities. Candidates are asked to come up with their methods to solve problems in some mock or real work-related situations. Firms keep rethinking hiring strategies in terms of processes in the pre-hiring engagement and assessments which would help them identify candidates that will make an effective hire. Most of the firms prefer using their own standards of hiring. Organisations have realised that hiring is a creative function which requires its own assessment standard. Even today, referrals are arguably one of the best sources of hiring. Whether through social media or company programmes, referrals are used by employers to tap networks beyond what the company can reach for themselves. For employers who are adopting new technologies and next-gen recruiting platforms, activating employee-based social referrals is becoming an important aspect of their recruiting strategy. Facebook has over 900 million users and LinkedIn has over 100 million. With every additional user on social media, the network reach of an individual continues to expand further through first, second, third … and increasing levels of connections.

Advice to applicants: They should emphasise on both hard and soft skills in their resume. This way, even if the applicant lacks a particular hard skill required by the company, balancing it with a particular soft skill would be valuable in the position. For example, if the job involves doing project management, working on a number of projects, the candidate must emphasise his/her experience and skills as a team player and the ability to communicate with team members. Although employers require both technical and soft skills, it is always the latter that they value more. Sure, on paper, the employer might treat the two types of skills as they are equally important, but employers who are focusing on the big picture (and most of them are, more or less) will value soft skills more. That being said, it is important to balance both skills in the resume.
Some most important skills organisations seek in a resume are teamwork, attitude, communication, creative thinking, work ethic, decision making, positivity, work drive, leadership, time management, motivation, flexibility, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, conflict resolution, empathy, diligence, etc.

By: Vidya Hattangadi

Management thinker and blogger
hattangadi.vidya@gmail.com

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