There’s an irony emerging in the corporate workplace: the softer the skills, the harder they are to find. Armed with staffing services, resumes, and references, employers can recruit experts in just about anything. But when it comes to personal attributes like creativity, the ability to collaborate effectively, and a strong work ethic, they often find themselves having to develop these skills from the inside-out.
Together with Aberdeen Group, we surveyed C-Suite professionals about the current skills gap and the state of the U.S. workforce. What we found is that 80 percent of employers believe the skills gap is real. Sure enough, the toughest skills to recruit for are soft skills, with critical thinking and problem solving topping the list.
For this reason, many companies are opting to develop these skills in their existing workforce. In fact, 48 percent of the companies we surveyed are increasing training for critical skills in response to the skills gap.
Here’s what companies can do to improve their teams’ soft skills, and why this strategy is so important.
Regardless of industry, service, or product, companies need workers who are able to think creatively. Yet close to 80 percent of Best-in-Class companies — comprised of businesses that saw an increase in revenue and decrease in time to hire and unwanted turnover rates in 2015 — said they “struggle with finding individuals who are creative and innovative.”
To overcome this hurdle, companies should consider adopting a more malleable workplace culture that allows workers to flex their creative muscles. Offering flexible hours can promote creativity by allowing employees to work when they’re in their most productive state. Additional options include encouraging workers to take frequent brainstorming breaks and rewarding them for their out-of-the-box ideas.
Teamwork and the ability to collaborate with others is a soft skill that can be especially hard to find, according to 16 percent of Best-in-Class companies. But Harvard Business Review reports that companies can develop it through active listening, by providing honest feedback, and by putting team contributions above individual achievements. The ability to effectively trade and combine expertise can become a major competitive advantage for organizations of all kinds.
Shore Up Your Team’s Professionalism
Aside from having human resources convey your code of conduct early on, it’s important to stress both the personal and business risks involved with unprofessional behavior. Encourage your staff to familiarize themselves with your corporate social responsibility efforts to demonstrate the importance of good corporate conduct. Inviting them to take part in your company’s charitable activities can also help turn employees into advocates for your brand.
Challenge Your Workforce
Keeping your workforce stimulated and challenged isn’t just important for employee retention; it also helps develop a strong work ethic and promotes critical thinking. By being as transparent as possible about your company’s objectives, finances, and operational strategy, you can help your workforce develop a greater sense of pride. Workers who are personally invested in a business are more likely to be loyal, as well as actively contribute to its success.
How do you develop a vital soft skill like self-motivation? Best-in-Class companies are 26 percent more likely to provide their employees with access to learning resources that empower them to learn and grow on their own time. By offering educational tools that apply both to the role at hand and employees’ careers at large, companies can help their workforce identify and meet their goals — and reap the benefits of a more galvanized team.
Whether you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for in a workforce due to the skills gap, or you’re simply keen on enhancing your existing staff, developing your team’s soft skills can go a long way to advancing your business.