This type of skill will be essential in the future of work

'Human,' or soft, skills are able to transfer across jobs and industries.
By: | June 2, 2021 • 5 min read

Many industries have started hiring again, creating job opportunities for workers displaced by COVID-19. As a result, a lot of people are looking outside their old fields and venturing into new industries. For example, workers might want to make the leap from project management in construction to project management at a software company, believing they possess the core skills for the role.

Jarin Schmidt, chief experience officer at Credly

In some cases, companies are evaluating their existing workforce to see how they can deploy talent in new ways, filling gaps without slogging through the entire hiring process. Finding areas where generalists with a wide range of knowledge and specialists, those with very specific talents, will both work best can move new and existing employees into different roles.

To help surface the best talent, organizations are now actively reassessing the outdated proxies they once used to rely on to narrow talent pools and make human capital decisions, like college degrees or years of experience in the field. Instead, many are turning to a new way to reevaluate candidates with a fresh perspective is to look for those with transferable skills.

What are Transferable Skills?

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Every role requires some combination of skills. What defines transferable skills is their ability to be used across multiple job functions, and even across seemingly disparate industries. Some transferable skills are technical competencies, while others—like leadership, curiosity, grit and time management—would be classified as human skills or, more commonly, soft skills. Transferable skills have been trending for a while, but the pandemic accelerated the demand for them. Transferable skills will be essential in both the hiring process and employee engagement strategies from now on.

Generalists in any field have a wide range of skills, making them excellent candidates for jobs covering a lot of different work. In the hospitality field, for example, a generalist would have experience with computers, sales and likely some conflict resolution; any or all of these skills transfer well to different customer service roles. Specialists, on the other hand, are experts in a particular area of work. Though lacking some of the broader skills a generalist has, specialists can still transfer their expertise into new fields through online courses, digital credentials and hands-on experience.

As workplaces today call for a more diverse talent pool, employees’ roles will continue to expand and evolve to encompass more tasks than before—with many of them outside previously specific verticals.

See also: Number of the Day-internal talent marketplaces

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Measuring Transferable Skills

Roles are becoming increasingly broad, frequently calling for a whole range of skills and familiarity with new technology in order to succeed. For example, a position that used to require only a finance degree now might need additional skills like programming and storytelling to better fit the expanded responsibilities of the role. While programming certifications might be easy to spot on resumes and in past work experience, how do you measure and verify if someone is proficient in storytelling or communication? A lot of people are surprised to learn that soft skills can be trained, measure, and credentialed just like their more technical counterparts.

So, what does this mean for businesses? For starters, HR professionals must establish a culture of learning and development. Skill gaps can exist in any department of your company, and guiding employees toward learning opportunities that will close the gap will benefit everyone. To find where skill gaps exist in your workforce, rely on the verified data found in digital credentials to track the skills of your workforce. Award digital credentials for any training you provide and encourage employees to share digital credentials awarded for external certifications so you can gain a better understanding of the big picture of your workforce’s skills. That way, you’ll be able to make data-driven human capital decisions, as well as identify skill gaps and actively fill them with targeted training.

Training programs for soft skills can range from single classes delivered by video and measured through an online exam to something as rigorous as multiple courses delivered by in-person instruction and measured by a series of tests and practical evaluations. Many organizations and universities issue digital credentials for a wide range of transferable skills—including soft skills.

Related: Here are the 5 soft skills employers demand most

Measuring soft skills is not the game of chance that it used to be, especially when they are mapped into professional learning and development programs that produce digital credentials full of context and credibility. Find which skills you believe are the most important for the job. Define these skills in a standardized, common language—another avenue where digital credentials play an essential role—and what it means for your workforce to have them.

Transferable Skills Moving Forward

Today’s workplace is marked by adaptability, a mindset that is not going to lose value any time soon. Transferable skills are a valuable currency in helping organizations adapt to an ever-changing job market. They allow professionals to pivot to different roles in their own sector or completely change fields without having to start over.

Transferable skills will not only impact hiring practices moving forward but will also have long-term effects on companies’ overall human capital strategies—especially when it comes to seeking out and recognizing soft skills. Not only are they transferable across roles, departments and projects but soft skills are some of the most durable skills an employee can bring to your organization.

As Chief Experience Officer at Credly, Jarin Schmidt helps shape the future of documenting and promoting skills by leading the product and customer success teams.