Your needs as an employer are unique to your business. So it only makes sense to hire employees who demonstrate appropriate knowledge, technical abilities, or academic credentials. But no matter what business you’re in, you should also make a point of considering an applicant’s less tangible qualities. Especially since soft skills matter a great deal in today’s dynamic workplace environment.
Soft Skills Help Grow Your Business
Soft skills cover a wide range of behaviors and character traits that we tend to lump together as people skills, social skills, or emotional intelligence. In conjunction with hard skills, it’s these characteristics that allow certain employees to perform better when it comes to things like:
- navigating the work environment,
- working well with others, and
- achieving daily and long-term objectives
Growth-oriented employees are critical to your success as a small business owner. And by understanding the types of soft skills these employees bring to the table, you’ll be better positioned to screen job candidates accordingly and build the best possible culture for your organization.
Recruiting the right people is a genuine opportunity to invest in the future of your business. So to help you meet both your team-building goals - and your human resources budget - here are 5 key soft skills you should consider the next time you sit down to hire.
What does a motivated employee look like? There’s no question that they devote consistent effort and energy to whatever job is at hand. But motivation goes beyond just having a great work ethic. It also includes the ability to set goals – and to respond well to goals set by others. Motivated employees also tend to view problems as challenges, and they have a proven capacity for acknowledging and moving past mistakes in order to arrive at a solution.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could assign a task to someone, knowing it would be done well and completed on time? Self-direction is an especially important soft skill to look for in your employees because it plays into that most prized of business ownership goals: effective delegation. Don’t overlook the significance of any job candidate who demonstrates reliability, a knack for working without direction, and a commitment to following through.
3. Collaboration & Communication
The modern workplace thrives on collaboration. Rigidly departmentalized business models are quickly disappearing as companies recognize that working as a team:
- allows employees to feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and
- encourages greater engagement
Successful collaboration, however, relies in turn on hiring people with such soft skills as the ability to give and receive constructive feedback, and a talent for effective communication – especially where clarity, consistency, and active listening are concerned.
Adapt or perish is often the reality of today’s competitive business environment. It speaks volumes, in fact, that of the companies listed on the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 61 remained as of 2014. Make sure that the same flexibility you embrace as a business owner is echoed in the staff that you hire. Change is never easy for anyone. But the best workplace cultures are populated with people who remain open to upgrading their skills and meeting new responsibilities and objectives, as needed.
Although it’s often used interchangeably with adaptability, resilience as a soft skill is not so much a measure of flexibility as it is the ability to hang onto certain qualities while change happens. Lots of small businesses and their employees recognize the need to adjust processes and policies to meet changing technologies and customer ideals. But the key is to also build a team of people who can maintain their functionality – and preserve your company’s identity – while providing the same quality of product or service throughout.
Preparing to Interview
While you may have a good idea of what your ideal employee looks like, if this is one of your first recruitment events, you should bear in mind that soft skills can sometimes be difficult to gauge during the interview process. For best results, consider:
- Nailing down the most important attributes for the position you’re looking to fill before you begin the recruitment process,
- Creating a checklist that will make it easier to scrutinize an applicant’s experience for the soft skills that are important to you,
- Choosing an interview style (structured, unstructured, or behavioral for example) that’s most likely to yield the results you need to make the right hiring decision, and
- Performing background and reference checks without exception
It’s far more important to invest in the right long-term fit for your business than it is to fill a vacancy on the fly. Even if your applicant of choice doesn’t display every quality you’d hoped for, remember that many soft skills can be developed over time.
Photo Credit: Canva