Soft skills are increasingly attractive to organisations. So why haven’t job seekers received the memo?
Employers desperately want soft skills – but the workforce hasn’t caught up yet.
A new report commissioned by Deakin University shows a big gap between what recruiters are looking for in candidates and what job-seekers are putting out there in the hope of getting hired.
What are soft skills exactly? Researchers point to communication, including active listening, teamwork and negotiation, problem-solving and emotional judgement. Occupations that prioritise these skills are expected to account for two-thirds of all jobs in Australia by 2030. But around a quarter of employers say they are having difficulty recruiting entry-level candidates who have these soft skills.
The report, published by Deloitte Access Economics: Soft skills for business success is based on analysis of data by Deakin and Deloitte, along with insights from LinkedIn and Workible among others. It emphasises the importance of identifying and measuring soft skills – in order to better understand areas that need to be improved in the Australian workforce.
Researchers looked at more than 175,000 resumes and around 160,000 job listings across 33 sectors in Australia from online and mobile job site, Workible.
While soft skills are nine times more likely to be endorsed by others on individual’s LinkedIn pages compared to technical skills, less than 1 per cent of Australians report having any soft skills on their LinkedIn profiles.
The gap between job market demand for soft skills and the lack of supply is a problem, says DeakinCo. CEO Simon Hann, who thinks that “people don’t have the confidence to claim skills that they are not able to verify.”
It also has an impact on HR’s ability to recruit good candidates.
Data from Workible and LinkedIn show that 69 per cent of HR decision makers in Australia and New Zealand reported that the top reason (45 per cent) they found it difficult to fill leadership roles was due to a lack of soft skills among job applicants.
What needs to change?
Seeing as demand for soft skills currently exceeds supply by 45 per cent, Australian businesses need to develop the ability to identify soft skills in candidates – and strengthen these skills in their workforce.
“As the lines between professions and industries get blurred, soft skills will become the new job currency,” says report author and Deloitte Access Economics partner John O’Mahony.
“It is essential for businesses to invest in developing and measuring soft skills of their people in order to future-proof their operations.”
It could even have a noticeable impact on the bottom line.
“Contributing to overall staff productivity, employees with more soft skills could increase business revenue by over $90,000 and enable our nation’s economy to thrive now and into the future.”
How HR can recruit for soft skills
It can be difficult to recruit for soft skills, particularly since candidates are unlikely to showcase how they have achieved positive outcomes using soft skills on their CV.
Individuals also tend to overstate their abilities and employers and recruiters can be subject to unconscious bias, such as thinking that people with English as a second language have poorer communication skills.
However, there are ways to better improve your ability to select candidates with strong soft skills. Along with structured interviews, game-driven recruitment and psychometric testing geared towards identifying specific abilities, hiring managers should also identify, name and describe the high priority soft skill behaviors required for each position – and build these criteria into the basic job requirements for the role.