The Softer Side of the Skills Gap

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The Softer Side of the Skills Gap

In today’s workplace, employers expect managers and employees to have mastered the technical skills they need to do their jobs, but they also want some- thing more: the ability to work well with others. That’s because the nature of work, the organization of the workplace, and the composition of the workforce have all changed in recent years.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, leaner staffs now need to do more with less, and the work they do often crosses functions as businesses focus on providing seamless solutions to customers’ needs rather than simply offering standalone products and services. In addition, workforces, whether located together physically in open-plan offices or virtually across the globe, are increasingly diverse.  All   of these changes point to a new emphasis on the need to collaborate with others who may come from different backgrounds and hold different perspectives.

In fact, according to research  published  in  the Harvard Business Review in  2016  by Rob Cross and his colleagues, “teamwork is seen as a key to organizational success.”1 According to data they collected over the past two decades, “the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more.”

It makes sense, then, that the skills employers increasingly look for when they are hiring so-called “soft” skills such as the ability to work on a team, make decisions, and communicate well. For example, the non-profit National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently surveyed hiring managers at 260 employers, such as Chevron, IBM and Seagate Technology.2

According to Forbes, the managers were asked about the degrees and skills they considered most important when recruiting new graduates from colleges and grad schools. Degrees in business, engineering, and computer and information sciences were ranked highest, indicating that “hard” skills are still critical. But soft skills are at least equally critical, with hiring managers ranking three skills at the top of the list in new hires:

  • Ability to work in a team structure...

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