Which of the following do you feel best defines the ‘gap’ in the US workforce skills gap?

  • Lack of soft skills
  • Lack of technical skills
  • Lack of strong leadership skills
  • Lack of computer-based technology skills
  • NA – I don’t think there is a gap in the US workforce

This is the question recently asked by Adecco Staffing in a telephone survey of 500 top executives.

Disturbingly, 44% of those surveyed reported that the gap they most experience is in soft skills. Employees simply aren’t able to demonstrate sufficient communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration to be optimally effective in their day-to-day work.

Another 14% shared their concern that the greatest gap exists in leadership (which I count among the soft skills.) That means that nearly half of the executives who participated in this study aren’t concerned about getting the technical dimensions of the job right; they’re worried about how employees and leaders interact with each other.

We can engage in a debate about why this is, which institutions have failed, and who’s to blame… or we can roll up our sleeves and explore what can be done.

  • Are your hiring models skewed toward technical experience and expertise or some of the softer competencies that are harder to teach but vitally important to the job?
  • Where are your training dollars spent? If you’re like most organizations, the money trail follows technical and job-specific needs, leaving woefully little for cultivating soft skills.
  • How are your leaders selected and promoted? Shining the light on those who exemplify communication, collaboration, and leadership skills sends a strong message to others about what the organization values.
  • Does your performance review process give as much attention to leadership and other soft skills as to the technical dimensions of the work?
  • What gets rewarded – the results or how the results were achieved? Continuing to recognize bottom line results without an eye to the behaviors (and possible wake) behind them actively undermines a focus on soft skills and leadership.

For organizations looking to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive environment, it’s time to take a hard look at soft skills.

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