2019 Talent Trends: Soft Skills, Transparency and Trust

This week LinkedIn released its 2019 Global Talent Trends research, a study that summarizes job and hiring data across millions of people, and the results are quite interesting. (5,165 talent and managers responded, a big sample.)

In an era when automation, AI, and technology has become more pervasive, important (and frightening) than ever, the big issue companies face is about people: how we find and develop soft skills, how we create fairness and transparency, and how we make the workplace more flexible, humane, and honest.

I just finished a long conversation with the founders of the Great Place to Work Institute (the company that analyzes the data for the Fortune Best Places to Work), and they told me that among all the HR and talent programs they’ve analyzed for years (benefits, wellbeing, training, career coaching, pay, stock options, and on), none of them really correlate to great places to work. The one that does is trust. Do you really trust your company, your manager, and your leaders?

And this is what comes out of the LinkedIn finding. In today’s era of “fake news” complaints and lots of worries about political and economic equity, employees are saying “I want to work for a company I truly trust.”

After All The Focus On Tech: It’s Soft Skills That Matter

The most interesting part of this research is a simple fact: in today’s world of software engineering and ever-more technology, it’s soft skills that employers want. 91% of companies cited this as an issue and 80% of companies are struggling to find better soft skills in the market.

What is a “soft skill?” The term goes back twenty years when we had “hard skills” (engineering and science) so we threw everything else into the category of “soft.” In reality soft skills are all the human skills we have in teamwork, leadership, collaboration, communication, creativity, and person to person service. It’s easy to “teach” hard skills, but soft skills must be “learned.”

The LinkedIn research discovered the five most important soft skills in demand today: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. This is fully consistent with the new research that just came out that shows how design, business acumen, and a new generation of digital skills are rapidly differentiating the highest paying jobs of the future.

What is a “soft skill?” The term goes back twenty years when we had “hard skills” (engineering and science) so we threw everything else into the category of “soft.” In reality soft skills are all the human skills we have in teamwork, leadership, collaboration, communication, creativity, and person to person service. It’s easy to “teach” hard skills, but soft skills must be “learned.”

The LinkedIn research discovered the five most important soft skills in demand today: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. This is fully consistent with the new research that just came out that shows how design, business acumen, and a new generation of digital skills are rapidly differentiating the highest paying jobs of the future.

For those of you who are hiring or looking for jobs, these are truly the skills of the future. All my research shows that the more “digital” your business becomes, the more important skills in collaboration, design, listening, and complex problem-solving become. And for all professionals at all levels: building soft skills is a never-ending process. Every day you’ll find yourself in meetings or conversations where you think “I could have handled that better.” That’s how we learn, and that’s what the research says people value.

It’s Hard To Assess Soft Skills

The LinkedIn research clearly points out that while hiring managers always look for technical skills and job experience, it is the soft skills that drive success. 92% of respondents say soft skills are more important than technical skill and 89% told us that bad hires typically lack soft skills.

The challenge in hiring is that assessing soft skills is difficult. New AI-based tools like Pymetrics or Koru can do a better job than ever before, but most companies (75%) still rely on behavioral questions or simply body language (70%). More than half the hiring managers use situational questions and a third ask candidates to do projects and then present the results to hiring managers. All this is good, but there’s no substitution for getting to know a candidate, talking with blind references (references who are not given to you by the candidate), and spending time with people on the job.

The LinkedIn study also describes how important it is to have clear values and criteria for evaluating people. Asking interviewers “how did you like him/her?” doesn’t tell you much. It’s far easier to ask “can you give me an example where you demonstrated a focus on quality, one of our core values?” These types of behavioral questions can get people to open up and really show you how they think, behave, and work in a team.

Work Flexibility Rises To The Top

The second big area I want to point out is the enormous growth in work flexibility as a criteria. As I like to put it, the tether between the employer and employee has been getting looser every year, and today 31% of all employees tell us that “flexible work arrangements” are very important in a job. This is a 78% increase since 2016.

Why this growth? You probably know. We’re all busy with our lives (family, parents, pets) and the always-on expectations of work have punctured our personal lives in a big way.

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Photo Credits Freepik