In an Automated World, Don’t be Blinded by Hard Skills

Hard skills may hold you back.
By: | August 1, 2018 • 2 min read

Hard skills (teachable skills that can be measured) have a shelf life—but exactly when they expire isn’t as easily identifiable as it is for the perishables in food stores. That presents HR leaders a significant challenge, which is underscored by new research that indicates that the revolving door of new hard skills is contributing to the ever-growing skills gap. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report: The Rise and Responsibility of Talent Development in the New Labor Market, talent developers have a huge task at hand: shrink the skills gap of today, tomorrow and 10 years from now—and, according to the report, a key aspect of that work is centered on developing workers’ soft skills.

The No 1. priority for talent development, according to the 4,000 learning and development leaders, executives and employees surveyed, is to focus on soft skills training. There’s a lot of attention on automation and tech, but these hard skills change as quickly as new technology churns out. Instead of an all-hands-on-deck approach for hard skills, talent developers need to ensure that there are enough workers with soft skills manning the ship. If an organization lacks critical thinkers and good communicators they’ll only stay afloat for so long.

“People skills are more and more important in an era where we have powerful and pervasive technology,” says Paul Roehrig, chief strategy officer at Cognizant Digital Business. “It sounds counterintuitive, but to beat the bot, you need to be more human.”

The top skills executives want employees to glean from L&D programs are leadership (65 percent), communication (64 percent), collaboration (55 percent), role-specific skills (42 percent), time management (33 percent) and program or platform usage (20 percent).

After training for soft skills, the second most important priority among executives is identifying trends to prevent future skills gaps. Interestingly, among L&D leaders, this priority is at the bottom of their lists. Savvy L&D leaders must juggle the talent-development needs of 2018 while also looking to needs of the future. They should seek out external partners and digital solutions that will assist them in not only identifying future skills’ trends, but also help implement the right programs to train employees.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, 92 percent of 900 executives said that soft skills were equally or more important than hard skills and 86 percent said they have a hard time finding people with soft skills. This soft-skills gap was a problem two years ago and if it isn’t addressed soon, it could become an even greater problem in another two years.

Danielle Westermann King, staff writer for HRE, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University. She has written and edited articles for various print and online healthcare publications and is now setting her sights on human resources. She can be reached at [email protected]