By Gale Mote / Management Column
There has been much conversation locally, in our state and around the country regarding the workforce skills gap – when what the employer needs and the applicant has to offer don’t align.
I believe there are some truisms to remember when you are on either side of the hiring desk.
First, most businesses agree they can teach the technical skills (even though they may prefer candidates are ready to hit the shop/office floor running), but it is more difficult to train on attitude or values. For this reason, it is critical that a job seeker’s personal values align with the core values of the organization. Both need to be clear on what matters most, and why and how the values are demonstrated in daily interactions with customers and colleagues.
Second, while behavioral interviewing is important in identifying whether a candidate has the ability, skill and will to be effective in a role, most people are interview-savvy. When they hear, “Tell me about a time….” they have prepared how to respond. In his book, “The Ideal Team Player,” Patrick Lencioni encourages employers to make interviews nontraditional – to get them out of the office into an unstructured environment. For example, ask a candidate to run an errand with you and see how they respond to conversational questions and the people they interact with along the way.
With respect to the specific skills that employers want today, I did some online research using career websites like Monster.com and TheBalanceCareers.com. Not surprising, many of the high-demand skills are quite similar across industry and occupations.
Teamwork is the ability to work interdependently with others. Team players are willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good of the team. They are aligned on the shared goal of the team and will do whatever is necessary to help – even if it means taking on a task or responsibility that is outside of their job description. They are emotionally intelligent – saying the right thing at the right time for the right reason. They are skilled at making sure the message sent is the one that was received.
Employers need workers who can find fresh ways to approach their work and challenge status quo to help the organization innovate and grow. Creativity, problem solving and critical thinking are essential. The ability to define the real issue, come up with multiple alternatives and make reasoned judgments or recommendations are helpful at all levels of an organization.
We are a data-driven world. Employers need people who can accurately interpret information and present it in a way that is compelling and easy to understand. Data analytics is not just a buzzword – it is reality.
Technical competency is great. Employers love candidates who know what they are talking about and can apply it in realistic work situations. Of growing importance, however, is the ability to broker that knowledge. Is an employee willing to share what he knows with others? What is his desire to mentor and coach other’s performance? Knowledge may be power but shared knowledge is a force multiplier.
Resiliency and hardiness is becoming a highly sought-after skill. If organizations are going to push the limits, there will be mistakes and missteps. You have to be able to take a hit as well as a win. People who have the ability to rise up after a fall, thrive in tough situations and recover from setbacks create a bedrock of grit for the hard work to continue.
While employers do have unique skills they are looking for to succeed, most would agree that creative, resilient team players who can think critically, communicate effectively and persevere will move to the top of the hiring list.
Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.