Developing Employee’s Soft Skills

Companies today are facing hiring challenges as a result of a tight labor market and large skills gap. Not only do employers want to find talent quickly, but they want to find candidates that have future-proof, flexible soft-skills. As LinkedIn reported in January of 2019, the soft skills that are in-demand most right now are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, and time management. These are skills that often enable people to thrive in a variety of industries and roles, which is very important in today’s constantly changing world.

In an effort bridge the gap it is vital that employers take initiative to encourage development of their employees soft skills. According to research done by a group of individuals from The University of Michigan Ross, Harvard University, and Boston College, employees that receive skills training are 12% more productive than those without any training. Though that may not seem like a significant number, the studies found that the 12% increased productivity translated into a 256% ROI.

How to Develop Employee’s Soft Skills

There are many ways in which companies can provide and encourage soft skill development. Before choosing what method is most suitable it’s important to understand the organizations needs. Below are three important questions for companies to ask before determining a development method.

  1. What soft skills are the most important for the job?
  2. What soft skills do employees in the organization most commonly lack?
  3. What skills do the employees want to develop that they feel could help improve their work?

Once the organization has a solid understanding of what’s most important it can determine how it will provide development opportunities. Below are some ideas:

  1. Host a skills development workshop that allows employees to lean as a group and get a more hands-on, personal learning experience.
  2. Choose an online learning program that best fits the employee’s needs and that allows them to take courses on their own time.
  3. Give employees projects and assignments that put their soft skill development training into practice and then give them feedback.

Teaching Soft Skills Pays Off

In order to bridge the soft skills gap, it’s time for companies to stop talking about it and start taking initiative. Employers need to determine where the skills gap lies with their employees and come up with a strategy, whether it be online learning, in person workshops, or both, that will develop and improve their soft skills.

By taking initiative to teach these skills, companies will benefit from increased productivity, increased ROI, and a future-ready staff that will be better at overcoming challenges and change; which is vital for success.

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The Shortage of Skilled-Trade Workers

Going to a four-year university to get a bachelor’s degree has become the societal “norm”. The idea that one must go to college and get a four-year degree to be successful in life has been drilled into the heads of high school students for years. Only recently, is it becoming obvious that getting a four-year degree does not always pay off. The financial return from getting a degree is declining. Many college grads are entering careers that have no relation to their degree, that under pay, and that result in students suffering from years of drowning in debt. In the meantime, high-paying, skilled-trade jobs that require shorter, less expensive training remain unfilled.

The shortage of these workers is so severe that 70% of construction companies nationwide are struggling to fill their positions. Experts at the American Welding Association predict a welding shortage of 200,000 jobs by 2020. Research conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute predict that over the next 10 years, manufacturers will need to add 4.6 million manufacturing jobs. Of those jobs, it is predicted that as much as 2.4 million will go unfilled. Already today, The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 500,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S remain vacant. There is simply just not enough talent to fill skilled-trade positions. With the future workforce being directed to higher-education, filling these positions will remain a challenge.

Higher-Education vs Skilled-Trades

Most parents want a better career for their child. Due to their outdated, common misconceptions of skilled-trade careers, they shy their children away from them. However, skilled-trade jobs have come a long ways over the past few decades and there are many high-paying positions that make for good careers and save individuals from college debt.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a welder in 2018 was $40,240. CNC programmers earned an annual median wage of $52,550. Both these jobs are in-demand right now and don’t require your standard bachelor’s degree.

Attracting Talent To Skilled-Trades

Some states have started to launch different initiatives to attract more students to technical and skilled-trade careers. For example, California plans to spend $200 million to improve the delivery of career and technical education. Community colleges and businesses in Iowa are partnering to increase the number of “work-based leaning opportunities”, and Tennessee has made its technical colleges free.

While these initiatives are great, there needs to be more initiatives like them launched around the nation. It is important for businesses and educators to collaborate in spreading awareness of career alternatives that don’t require a bachelors degree. Students need to learn about the opportunity that exists outside of a four-year degree and get real insight to what these jobs in demand look like and what they entail.

You often see colleges coming to schools to recruit students, but you never see businesses that employ skilled-trade workers coming to schools to recruit future workers. Businesses should consider going to schools to recruit potential talent and encourage students to consider skilled-trade careers. Educators also need to be open to inviting businesses into their schools and talking about these career paths. They should be encouraging and supportive to students considering this path. Their involvement, along with state initiatives, could be the key to attracting more people into skilled-trade positions.

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A Solution to Vacant Tech Positions

The amount of tech jobs in the U.S has greatly increased and yet many go unfilled. This is because employers are struggling to fill the skills gap. Having unfilled positions negatively impacts the top and bottom lines of business in ways that hiring managers tend to never even consider. To make matters even more challenging for employers, the market is being driven by candidates and is more competitive than ever. Companies need to act fast to bring in talent that meets their needs. One scalable solution for companies suffering from unfilled tech positions is to outsource their hiring to staffing firms and bring in contractors.

6 Benefits of Using Staffing Companies and Contractors to Fill Tech Roles

  1. The contract workforce in the U.S has grown 36% over the past five years. This workforce is projected to continue growing. Filling positions with contract workers opens up a new talent pool for hiring managers.
  2. Staffing firms have faster time-to-hire, especially if they specialize in tech hiring.
  3. Using contract workers minimizes companies turn over disruption.
  4. Contractors are a great solution when you have an immediate need for special projects or need to fill skill gaps.
  5. Staffing companies provide in-demand talent at more affordable rates.
  6. Makes high volume recruiting easier.

Instead of leaving tech positions unfilled, partnering with staffing agencies might just be the solution that companies in search of tech talent need.

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9 Interview Tips to Land the Job

Have you ever been qualified for a job, selected for an interview, felt that you interviewed well, and then gotten the standard, “Thank you for your interest in XYZ company. We chose to move forward with a different candidate. We will keep your resume on file blah blah blah.”?

If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many people that feel qualified for the job they applied to and confident in their interview often end up in this situation.

So what happened? What went wrong?

A resume might be what gets you through the door, but your interview dictates your future with the company. We asked one of our recruiters what he finds commonly hurts candidates the most during interviews and to give advice on how candidates can overcome those things to land the job.

Advice From a Recruiter

1. The “Least Favorite Employer” Question

A lot of times hiring managers will ask about your least favorite employer. The proper way to respond to this question is NOT by saying, “I loved all my previous jobs and bosses”. This is not a valid answer. Instead, focus on a specific thing(s) you did not like about your boss and explain it. Also, remember that this is not an opportunity to go on a tangent about how you hated your boss or rip them apart when answering this question.

2. Understand the Job

Before going into a job interview – or heck even before applying – read and have a solid understanding of the job description. The basics are knowing the company, but a good interviewer will research the company in the news, check out their social media, and dig into the company website beyond the front page to know what they are currently involved within the business and in the community.

Bonus: Research the Interviewer. If you know their name ahead of time, then do a little research on them as it might help with breaking the ice.

3. Avoid Aggressive Name Dropping

If you know people that work at the company you are interviewing with, then that’s great. If you are name dropping the people you know just to do it, and there is no reason to be name dropping at that point during the conversation, then it just comes off as tacky.

Ex.) I sat in for an interview at an auto company’s aftermarket site. The position dealt with credit analysis for auto part stores and maintenance shops. The candidate had previous experience doing credit analysis and had done so for some property acquisitions made by “John”. John was the owner of a very large, successful company. I think the candidate dropped John’s name at least 5-6 times during the interview and nobody interviewing really cared.

4. Don’t Bullshit

If you don’t know the answer to a question, or don’t understand what they are asking, don’t try to make something up that you think sounds okay. It is OKAY to respond by saying, “I’m sorry, I do not know”, or, “Can you please explain the question?”. You being honest or getting clarification gets you farther than a bullshitted answer.

5. Focusing on Advancement

It is great to show interest in advancing through the company. However, don’t focus on advancement opportunities during the interview and don’t ask a lot of questions about them. The hiring manager is interviewing you for a specific job, so focus on that job.

6. No Phones

Turn your cell phone ringer on silent or turn your phone off all together heading into the interview. Hearing your phone going off during an interview is a MAJOR turn off to hiring managers.

7. Ask Questions

Not having questions prepared for the interviewer is not okay. There are nuances to every job, workplace, and team. Not having questions makes you come across like you did not care to prepare and do not care about the job. The interview is a chance for BOTH sides to see if it is a match.

8. Bragging about Yourself

Yes, you have to sell yourself to the interviewer. However, boasting about previous accomplishments is not the best way to do it. It is okay to touch on those, but do not start talking about your trophy case unless they really want you to.

9. Answer the Question and Then Shut-up

It is too often that interviewees get nervous and do not know when to stop talking. They usually continue to babble far beyond the point of when they answered the question. Take a minute before you answer the question, breathe, and once you answered, it stop talking.

Land the Job

Don’t let a bad interview be the reason you don’t get the job. The recruiters at HRU Technical Resources often coach candidates on how to have better interviews to land the job they want, which is part of what makes working with recruiters so great. Following these 9 interview tips/advice will help you to have a knockout interview and increase your chances of getting the job.

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Using Text Messaging to Reduce "Ghosting"

Being ghosted by candidates is a hot topic in HR. Candidates are ghosting in ways such as the following:

  1. Candidates were once engaged and then suddenly disappear in the hiring process
  2. A person lands the interview and then doesn’t show up
  3. The candidate accepts the job and then doesn’t show up to their first day
  4. The person just stops coming to work with no resignation notice and then doesn’t respond to their now previous employer

In the video below, Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources, talks about the ghosting trend and how using text messaging has the potential to reduce it.

Ghosting won’t go away on its own. It is up to us as employers to be proactive about ghosting to ensure that it doesn’t happen to us. Using text messaging can reduce or prevent candidate ghosting by keeping candidates and new hires engaged and nurtured in the process.

To learn more about how to use texting to reduce ghosting just click here.

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What’s more important in Recruiting: The Message or The Messenger?

So often in recruiting we get caught up in drafting the perfect recruiting message. We want it to be:

  • Personal
  • To the point
  • Show our culture
  • Give some information but too much information
  • We want a call to action

We are obssessed as recruiters in our messaging. Which begs the question, what is truly the most important part of the message? The message itself or who the message is coming from?

In my previous life I ran large corporate Talent Acquisition departments. Like every organization we had extremely hard to fill jobs, some of which were critical to our success.

My team had standard response rates with email and Inmail, maybe a little better because we would constantly test our subject lines which have a great deal to do with whether a person even opens your message, to begin with, but for the most part fairly average.

We were tasked with filling an executive role. We did the sourcing and knew exactly who we wanted to go after for the position. We had a “hit list” of ten, but ultimately there were three candidates we knew we had to talk to.

We did all the standard outreach. Sent email messages. Tried to connect with them on LinkedIn. Sent them Inmails. Called them at their work and left messages. We changed up messsaging and did it all again. But none of our Big 3 responded.

This is when I went to our CEO and asked him if he would allow me to send three emails from his email account, from him, to these three individuals. I showed him exactly what would be sent and we did some tweaking to make him feel comfortable, and we pushed “Send”.

All three responded within 24 hours. All three set up interviews for the position. We offered one who accepted.

In my time with that CEO we did this four other times for critical positions. Our response rate to the CEO was between 80-90%. My own team’s response rate was under 30%. I’ve also tested this with Hiring Managers in IT, and it also works really well. Not as well as the CEO test, but much higher than an average Recruiter.

I’m not saying that what you say in your message doesn’t matter. If the candidate doesn’t know you or your brand, that your messaging still has to be good. All things being equal in messaging, and the candidate does care who the message is coming from!


Tim Sackett is the President of HRU and an industry thought leader in Talent Acquisition and Recruiting. Author of the best selling book, The Talent Fix, and the President of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals. Tim writes every day about Talent, HR and Leadership on his personal blog The Tim Sackett Project.

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