As UK businesses set their sights on recovery and growth following the COVID-19 pandemic, recruitment specialists and hiring managers must seek to understand a rapidly shifting recruitment landscape, that may appear unrecognisable to some, when compared to just a year previous. With unemployment at a record high and employers looking for the greenlight to engage with their market once more, it is crucial for them to be able to understand this changing marketplace quickly and to identify the most valuable skills from a hotly contested and competitive talent pool, to suit their organisation’s needs.

For several years, a growing body of evidence suggests that:

Soft skills – such as empathy, sociability, resilience, and curiosity – are becoming increasingly sought after by employers over hard skills, and expertise that recruiters traditionally look for. 

Advances in technology and changes in societal priorities (e.g., work-life balance) have expedited the rate in which job roles have evolved. As such, it is no longer possible for candidates to learn a single skill or a small collection of specialist expertise and then settle into a role for the remainder of their career. The idea of a ‘job for life’ is rapidly becoming an out-of-date term. The pandemic has pushed this transition to an unprecedented level as lockdown restrictions have made necessary automation innovation and digitalisation in many industries. Innovations that were used by only a select few of particularly tech-savvy companies a year ago.

PwC’s 2020 Annual CEO Survey explores in depth the growing need for soft skills to address in the imminent skill gap. One of the key takeaways from this research is the need for organisations to build transferable skills that will continue to remain relevant and therefore useful, however technology, automation and digitization may change the future of the workplace.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) discovered similar findings in a job outlook survey dating as far back as 2017. They found that soft skills – those not defined by your job role or technical knowledge – such as communication and teamwork, were high on employers’ wish lists for employees. As many as 78% of hiring managers who were surveyed want employees who can work well with others with varying personality traits and associated behaviour. A further 77% of hiring managers look for employees who can think critically – beyond the scope of their role – to challenge and ask questions about processes. Other skills also include work ethic, verbal communication styles and leadership qualities. These qualities were also reported in similar findings by Forbes Magazine back in 2016.

As change continues, we can expect an even greater emphasis on soft skills in job postings and role profiles. However, these are skills that candidates tend to receive little quality feedback on, nor do they receive adequate training or support in developing them further. This is what has been referred to as the contemporary ‘skills gap’: hard skills are being overemphasised in the recruitment process, by way of tradition; whilst soft skills, which carry increasing weight, are either under supplied, misunderstood, or not accurately identified in the talent pool.

Measures of soft skills can often be wide of the mark. Traditional assessment methodologies have typically focused exclusively on past performance to forecast future performance. While valuable, this has led to a reliance on hard skills and past attainment, which can hamper the social mobility efforts of an organisation and disadvantaged early-career candidates. I am sure you have all heard of the classic complaint: “I can’t get experience without it.”

While competency-based approaches allow for the assessment of some relevant behaviours, methodologies can be somewhat limited in their application. Competency-based interviews, for example, which ask candidates to provide a structured response to a question linked to a key organisational competency, provide only a secondary form of evidence (i.e., they ask a candidate to report or tell a story about something they did do, rather than show assessors what they can do).

At PeopleScout, we recognise that placing emphasis on soft skills – on behaviour and personality, pays dividends. Our One Person Model builds on this understanding and accurately measures a candidate’s capability as well as their behaviour: their past performance as well as their passion, enthusiasm, and mindset.

Our One Person Model is built to assess:

Capability – A candidate’s core intellectual ability and capacity.

Behaviour – A candidate’s past behaviour and personality-based behavioural preferences.

Results – What a candidate has already achieved in terms of knowledge, skills and experience.

Passion – A candidate’s enthusiasm, enjoyment and commitment to mastering the requirements of the role.

Purpose – A candidate’s alignment with and willingness to contribute to the vision and values of an organisation.

Mindset – A candidate’s belief about themselves and their basic qualities.

To learn more, please contact me: simon.davies@tmpw.co.uk