Soft skills are all the "behavioral skills" that are not related to technical expertise. More than just personality traits, they are used to interact effectively with one's environment, adapting to others and to delicate situations. Soft skills are knowledge-based and essential when it comes to recruitment and collaboration with candidates. Whether it’s creative ability, emotional intelligence, multi-tasking or team spirit, these qualities help optimize hard (technical) skills to achieve better productivity. In addition, soft skills represent everyone’s potential to grow in their minds and their work.
Fostering soft skills during the recruitment process and employee training is a way of boosting your employer brand while improving your company’s performance. First, we’ll discuss the challenges soft skills present for companies and then how to work them into your operations while encouraging employee development.
The challenges of soft skills for companies
For employers, the stakes are threefold. First, when facing competition from neighboring companies, recruiting the best talent requires the development of an attractive employer brand. The employer brand is made up of three pillars: company identity, its employer image (internal) and its reputation (external). The latter is considered to make the most difference with candidates. Indeed, 52% of candidates consider the reputation of a company to be a deciding factor when applying. A company that acknowledges the importance of soft skills and their development demonstrates innovative thinking focused on the growth of their employees - assets that build a better reputation.
A company has every interest in being able to identify soft skills in future employees so they can recruit a person who aligns with their company culture.
As such, a company has every interest in being able to identify soft skills in future employees so they can recruit a person who aligns with their company culture. While hard skills are important, technical skills change very quickly, so what a student learns at school is quickly outdated. To stay at the forefront, you must train employees regularly, so you cannot rely too heavily on hard skills when recruiting. On the other hand, employees must be able to adapt to all these permanent changes. Some soft skills are therefore essential. Besides, 52% of HRDs attach as much importance, or even more, to soft skills than to hard skills.
Finally, the last challenge is filling your company with motivated employees who carry their work out with enthusiasm throughout their career. By putting suitable systems in place, companies demonstrate that they value employee development. According to a WellCom study, an employer’s values are the primary factor in employee engagement for 93% of executives.
How to incorporate soft skills into your company?
Evaluate a candidate’s soft skills during the recruitment process
Firstly, it is necessary to set up a strategy to evaluate soft skills ahead of recruitment. Indeed, it is vital to identify soft skills that are useful for your business, and that you think are necessary to "match" your company culture. According to LinkedIn, recruiters in 2018 named the 5 soft skills as flexibility, ability to adapt to corporate culture, collaboration, growth potential and prioritization.
According the recruiters the 5 soft skills as flexibility, ability to adapt to corporate culture, collaboration, growth potential and prioritization.
Then, when selecting suitable candidates for interviews, do not forget to mention the desired soft skills and how they relate to the job offer. This also allows the candidate to think further ahead.
Finally, the main point is that we must use strategies to detect soft skills during the interview. It is not enough to ask the person if they have a certain quality, but rather put them to the test in a situation and gauge their natural reactions. Here are some avenues you can try.
Implement personality tests
To reveal a candidate’s knowledge, experience and motivations, companies frequently use personality tests during recruitment. The most commonly used in the world is the MBTI, with 20,000 tests per day. It determines the psychological type of a person among 16 profiles (thinker, giver, protector, etc.) by highlighting their behavioral inclinations (eg extrovert or intuitive). Among other recognized tests, there is the PAPI, which is used by 10% of French recruiters, and the SOSIE, which reveals a candidate’s 9 personality traits and 12 values.
Ask situational questions to test attitude
You can also develop your own questions to highlight a candidate's reactions and personality: how would she react to a particular event, who inspired her in previous work experience, what problems did she have and did she know how to cope? With this method, you can customize a "test" to gauge the key soft skills for the position in question.
Place the candidate in a real-world situation
There is nothing like a real-life scenario to observe a person’s behavior, actions and management abilities with your own eyes. Why not give a prospective candidate a temporary project with the team, for example? The start-up Fretlink is doing a kind of "pre-onboarding" process: they invite candidates who are in talks for a position to spend a day at their offices. By chatting and working with them, the recruiter and the team can observe the candidate’s real-life behavior and determine if the person is a "match" with the company.
Meet the candidate in an informal setting
Whether in a café or at an event, meeting a candidate in an informal setting can break down the barriers of traditional interviewing. It will be easier to judge the candidate's natural personality by watching him interact in a casual environment rather than a closed office room. How does the candidate place his order? Is he reserved? Does he hold eye contact when he shakes your hand? etc.
Whether in a café or at an event, meeting a candidate in an informal setting can break down the barriers of traditional interviewing.
Adapt your company to encourage soft skills
You have managed to find exceptional soft skills in your candidates, you have hired them, but the adventure is not over! Indeed, soft skills are a potential that everyone can and must continue to develop. Allow your employees to grow in their behavioral skills. To do so, the company must adapt.
By encouraging employees to be trained and coached in soft skills, the company displays the value it places on their growth. New knowledge is beneficial to both their personal development and that of the company. The training courses "How to develop the skills of my teams" and "Better public communication" at the Orange Campus in Paris are examples of soft skills training. It is vital that the employee is given the opportunity to learn based on her field of work, but also her interests. At Orange, a real-world training program is set up. Whether mastering a digital tool or soft skill, Orange Learning gives access to a rich catalog, 50% of which will be Moocs by 2020. In addition, Orange believes that when an employee acquires new skills, they are more efficient, and their salary can be raised accordingly.
Associative engagement is also a means for general skills development. By working with an associative and voluntary project, qualities such as self-confidence, team spirit and empathy are at work. The Voyage Privé group’s employees, for example, volunteer to provide homework help to children mainly from neighborhoods in Aix-en-Provence.
Orange believes that when an employee acquires new skills, they are more efficient, and their salary can be raised accordingly.
The benefits of soft skills for employer brands
While further benefits are linked to the fostering of soft skills in companies, it should be noted that employee well-being is improved when they feel listened to and valued. However, this well-being can be a means to stay attractive to employees and retain them in the long run. In addition, by placing more importance on soft skills rather than hard skills, the recruiter is also more open, leading to greater diversity in new hires.
The example of Engie
Furthermore, some companies have understood the key aspects of soft skills. In 2017, Engie launched a campaign with the tagline, "You are the energy the world needs" In addition to recruitment, this campaign shows that opportunities for change are great and encouraged by many occupations, as well as an internal incubator for entrepreneurial minds. A system of "affinity matching" has been set up: the user takes a short quiz that contains only personal questions before being put in touch with an ENGIE employee. They meet with ENGIE employees and discuss personal and professional topics, as well as Engie's vision. During the first trial, 10,000 interactions were initiated and 3,000 contacts were made. The campaign’s success encouraged Engie to continue employing this innovative method in their recruitment process.
In addition to recruitment, this campaign shows that opportunities for change are great and encouraged by many occupations, as well as an internal incubator.
The example of PwC
The auditors PwC also use soft skills for a wide range of activities. In particular, they target young graduates. To reach them, the firm mainly uses social networks and the internet. "Out of the box" a virtual escape game available on mobile or desktop, helps them attract and test candidates. A good way to test soft skills, topics that are important to the firm, such as entrepreneurship, cybersecurity and sustainable development, are covered in the game. The firm also offers students mentoring via Asso Training Day. PwC employees liven up these days by helping the students develop their skills according to their university roles. A student president? Mentoring on key leadership and management skills. Treasurer? Mentoring on budget optimization. (The company also offers leadership and project management mentoring to students.) Or, with its incubator, PwC encourages students to use innovation to find future employees.
These are just a few examples of innovation in recruitment and human resources that put people at the heart of any strategy. The evolution of the working world through digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence is forcing companies to rely on human capital (soft skills) to make the difference.
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Rédaction : Mélanie Duclos
Illustration : WTTJ