The classic way to screen candidates for a particular role within an organization is to compare education, work experience and hard, verifiable skills to a list of requirements. However, this approach to talent assessment may be missing some of the most important elements of the modern worker's toolkit - soft skills.
The ability to communicate effectively with others and work as a member of a team is a must-have today, as is an aptitude for learning new tasks on the fly. Even in an era that has become largely concerned with technological proliferation and online contact, these kinds of old-fashioned methods of communication remain central to operating an effective business team.
IT needs more than tech knowledge
IT consultant Rao Tummalapalli spoke with ZDNet about the importance of interpersonal skills in technology rolestoday. While these roles would seem to be heavily focused on more cut-and-dry hard skills, the ability to work effectively with others and communicate clearly remains extremely valuable. Tummalapalli pointed out that IT is in a constant state of change. People who can learn quickly and work as a team are better positioned to follow tech's ebbs and flows than individuals with a rigid set of proficiencies.
While it's generally held that teaching soft skills is harder than imparting hard knowledge, Tummalapalli did report that there are ways to get a workforce up to speed on modern ways of operating. For instance, leaders must align their goals with those of their employee. Greater soft skills can help workers move up within their organizations, and improve the overall performance of the business.
The consultant added that even in fields that have high turnover rates - such as the competitive oil and gas sector - there is value in training workers in soft skills. Helping individuals and their teams excel will have positive effects on the business as a whole. A revamped IT department with a strong undercurrent of teamwork, learning and open communication can help a business thrive.
What can leaders do?
One of the major issues with soft skills in the enterprise is what leaders can do to encourage their teams to build these abilities according to Skillsoft's Tony Glass. For example, managers can turn their assessment meetings with employees into incubators for better communication. Worker take their cues from the top, so when leaders are open and clear with them, they will be better able to work with their peers.
Glass added that soft skills training can address areas of need. For instance, workers who have issues with their communication can receive specialized outreach from managers. The purpose of these sessions shouldn't be to deliver criticism or be harsh, but to ensure that employees have self-awareness of the ways in which they could become more effective team members.
A well-rounded workforce can be more secure
Individuals with soft and hard skills, communication abilities and IT competencies may be better able to defend themselves against today's various IT threats than those with only one type of abilities. Today's hackers tend to focus on psychological tricks rather than brute force to break into systems, and individuals who have sharp intuition may be able to detect and resist these attacks.
Data protection today is heavily concerned with ensuring that no one commits the kind of error that would let a hacker into a system, such as clicking a link in a legitimate-seeming spear phishing email. In the best case for today's workers, they'll have enough intelligence of various types to outsmart criminals. That said, sometimes the forces attempting to break into businesses' data are simply too slippery to catch through simple caution.
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