August 23, 2022

Getting the job done depends on hard skills, but where do you start?

Hard skills in your future-ready organisation

Skills-based working

It’s undeniable that during a hiring process a recruiter or interviewer will assess the necessary soft skills of a candidate rather than looking at the hard skills. The reason is that the interviewer might not be a subject matter expert. Having an employee that has a good cultural fit and is eager to learn is often even more important than its technical and hard skills. Someone with a good attitude can be moulded into an employee that fits the organisation’s needs.

We notice that during employee performance evaluations soft skills will often be touched upon to assess an employee's role in the organisation. Performance evaluations aren’t always tasked to those that have on-the-job experience or take part in the day-to-day business.

However, hard skills are equally important when it comes to performance and the correct execution of the employee's role.

What’s the difference between hard and soft skills?

Hard skills are related to the job content itself and are in general quantifiable. Meaning that a co-worker can successfully perform a task related to a certain standard set. Measuring hard skills is fairly easy and can be linked to experience levels and certification.

You can acquire hard skills through training and repetition.

Soft skills however are less related to the actual job content. They are linked to a person's character, attitude and behaviour. This makes it much harder to assess while they are much more subjective and the observation might differ between assessors.  

Examples of soft skills might be strategic vision, empathy and analytical thinking. While these are far less job related they are transferable between job functions and employers. They are less tangible, thus much harder to teach or acquire.

Attracting team members that have a good mix of strong hard skills and soft skills is both a challenge and a goal. Having your key roles filled by candidates that perform well on both, strengthens your team and amplifies its output.

For example, a very skilled technical engineer with strong interpersonal skills can play a crucial role as a team lead. And a business strategist who masters excel to support his vision, might be the person to look for.

What about technical skills?

We want to distinguish technical skills from (technical) hard skills, while hard skills are more conceptual and transferable than technical skills. An employee might be skilled in working in a company-owned ERP-tool, but if one has the ability to look at it from a more holistic viewpoint this employee might as easily work in an other ERP-tool.  

Someone with sales skills (hard skill) might also require technical skills to follow up on the sales funnel through a tool like Salesforce. Thus technical skills are much more process-related and often specific to the organisation.

A skills-based organisation will focus its attention on hard skills rather than on technical skills.

Skill-based training

The best example of skill-based training is the good old school system (elementary through university). They strongly focus on skill development with exams as their way to assess the skills developed.

Next to formal education, there are on- and offline courses, training programs and certification tracks. These are often taken to master some skills that are complimentary to the skills already developed. These post-graduation training programs can focus on both technical and hard skills, or a combination of both.

Lastly, there is internal/on-the-job training. This type of training is either organised or experience based.  Depending on the organisation it’s primarily on technical skill development and less on hard skill development.  

Hard skills most sought after

There are some hard skills that are in high demand. These top hard skills give candidates an advantage during the hiring process. This list isn’t necessarily a reflection of the job market as a whole, but it gives a good impression of the future-proof qualities companies are looking for.

Management skills

COVID-19 inflicted a change in management skills. Whereas in the past managers had to deal with people in the office, remote working requires a whole new skill set. Managers have to become leaders and micro-managers have to rethink their approach. Project management, agile working and result-based evaluations are key in an environment where teams are dispersed over several locations. This means that building a cohesive team has become much more challenging and requires new types of managers, leaders.

Computer skills

Computer skills are thé necessity of this century, especially in industrialised countries. It starts with the basic requirements of knowing one’s way around Microsoft Office tools up to being a skilled developer. Since the rise of personal computers, the demand for developers has only increased. To combat this extremely high demand we see companies turn to low-code and no-code development as well. Meaning that less ‘skilled’ employees (meaning to in-depth coding background) are also able to pitch in.

Data analysis skills

Stronger computers and stronger networks mean access to more and more data. Which can be extremely valuable to make data-driven and data-backed decisions. Processing this data and turning it into actionable knowledge is a skill that only fairly recently made it to this list, but will surely be one of the most promising skills for the future. Artificial Intelligence, 5G, Web3.0, Blockchain, … are technologies that heavily rely on good data.

Digital marketing skills

Marketing in the past was highly driven by ‘eyeballs’. Getting your message seen by as many people as possible was the way to go for most B2C companies. But nowadays people no longer watch linear TV, they don’t listen to the radio as much as before and they are always connected. This opens up a whole range of possibilities to target marketing messages to the individual. But it requires a different skill set that is more data-based. Creativity no longer lies in the beauty of a TV-commercial but in the way a marketer can manipulate the data to get the highest number of marketing qualified leads.

Writing skills

Skills that are often forgotten and neglected, are writing skills. However we use them on a daily basis; writing an email, reporting on an event, putting together a business proposal, … Having good writing skills might mean the difference in closing or losing a deal. We see however that this skill is under pressure and less sexy for youngsters to become good at.

Design skills

Our world has become digital and visual, and a brand can be built purely out of a good representation. But designing is more than just making something look beautiful in Photoshop or on paper. Today’s market craves animations, 3D-models, proper UX and user interfaces. An architect that cannot present his drawing in a 3D animation or even in virtual reality will soon become an artefact.

These skills can and should be a guide for the educational system to tailor their programs and guide their students. Unfortunately, we see that a lot of these skills are acquired after formal education through training programs, self-training and on-the-job training…

How do you assess your workforce or recruits on these skills?

Having the proper hard skills in your organisation highly increases productivity. Employees with the right skill set meet their targets and objectives. Tracking their skills or the lack of them, so that an organisation can tailor their training programs, is indispensable.

An organisation that works skill-based can easily identify the minimum required skills to hire someone. Pre-employment skills assessment during recruitment is very important to identify the prime candidate. And on-the-job assessments allow your organisation to work on talent development and career planning.

Having a tool like Mobilar allows companies to quickly identify the acquired skills and skill gaps. It gives organisations the opportunity to visualise potential skill gaps, to certify their employees and to assess training programs. It’s a crucial piece in a skill-based organisation.  

What’s next?

The ultimate dream in skill assessment is not to link skills to a certain job profile, but to discover which ideal skill set can be a basis to reskill people. Maybe a car mechanic has the right thinking patterns that would make him a good CNC operator? Maybe a professional athlete can easily be reskilled into a nurse? Maybe a pharmacist would make a great C#-developer?  

Finding those patterns and skill combinations that work best for retraining, might resolve some of the skill demands in the market.

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