Employers Have a Hard Time Finding Employees with the Right Soft Skills

Date: September 30, 2016

Fifty-eight percent of companies find the lack of soft skills is limiting employee productivity.

Potential job seekers have an idea of what employers are looking for. But do they know that employers value soft skills just as much, if not more, than hard skills? 

A recent LinkedIn data report analyzed 291 U.S. hiring managers in May and found that employers struggle to find candidates with the right soft skills for 59 percent of their open jobs, and 58 percent said the lack of soft skills among candidates was “limiting their company’s productivity.” 


What exactly are soft skills? The Wall Street Journal said soft skills are characteristics an employee possesses that might not be in a job description but are essential for performing well in the workplace.

According to the report, “over 60 percent of hiring managers say screening candidates for soft skills is difficult.” LinkedIn’s team focused on members who switched jobs between June 2014 and June 2015, examining the soft skills members had listed on their profiles to determine which were the most sought after. 

The three most in-demand soft skills were communication, organization, and teamwork, and the least three were business planning, cross-functional team leadership, and emotional intelligence.

Researchers discovered soft skills were most prevalent in service industries such as restaurants, consumer services, and professional training and coaching, while soft skills were least commonly found in the motion pictures and film, graphic design, and fine art industries. 

This shows the more creative industries put less value on soft skills compared with the service industries, most likely because in service industries, “interpersonal interactions are more frequent, [but are] less common among workers in industries where technical skills are more prevalent.”

Because soft skills can be difficult to teach, HR Dive offers advice on how to foster soft skills learning. 

“Employers that want to create learning environments only need to provide access to on-demand soft skills learning tools,” the article said. “The beauty of soft skills training is that the topics are easy to find and quickly apply to real work situations. Managers can learn to be better managers. Employees can learn to relate to one another better. Teams begin to thrive because they know how to bring out the best in each other. Change is embraced and communication is managed more effectively. All of this adds up to a much more pleasant and productive work environment.” 

Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking, a management research, training, and consulting firm, also recommended these four ways employers can help their employees build up their soft skills: 

  •       Name certain soft skills, and describe why they are important to the organization.
  •       Explain how the cultivation of these soft skills can benefit careers.
  •       Lay out step-by-step directions for what staff needs to do to achieve these soft skills.
  •       Acknowledge when staff is attaining certain soft skills.

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