Defining the top three soft skills that new employees should possess can help you quickly narrow down the field of qualified job applicants. Here's a look at why adaptability and flexibility, creative thinking and problem-solving, and the ability to learn make for the top three soft skills.
There are two types of skills recruiters should look for in new employees: hard skills and soft skills. Let's take a look at the difference between these two skill sets, specifically the three soft skills most important for new employees to possess.
Soft skills relate to communication styles and behaviors. These skills are key for interactions with co-workers, employees and customers. Unlike hard skills, which stand out as the techniques needed to do a specific job, soft skills tend to remain hidden until required in certain situations. Recruiters have to do a little investigating to discover a new employee's soft skills.
Examples of soft skills to look for include:
- The ability to learn
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Creative thinking and problem-solving
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
The three most important soft skills all new employees should possess include adaptability and flexibility, creative thinking and problem-solving abilities, and most importantly, the ability to learn.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Adaptability refers to an employee's ability to embrace change in the workplace and acclimate or adjust his or her workflow accordingly. It's not only important that a new employee has the ability to perform a job, but also important that he or she has the capacity to adapt to situations that may arise out of the blue. When new employees are able to accept changes, they're able to roll with the flow and continue their work, even if the process looks different from those based on textbook methods.
For example, let's say that your graphic designer's software program stops running while creating an image you need for an afternoon staff meeting. The designer could refuse to work without the program, or he could adapt to the problem and use another designer's computer. If he's the only designer in the office, he may even resort to using an old school paint program to complete the image. The result may not be what he originally intended, but it works for you and allows the staff meeting to start without delay.
Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
New employees need the skills to do a particular job. They also need the skills necessary to think outside of the box and find creative solutions when problems arise. Problem-solving involves identifying what's wrong and developing solutions to correct it. Creativity and problem-solving skills go hand in hand. There may be multiple ways to solve a problem, and employees should be creative when choosing the best solution.
Here's a scenario where these skills are critical. Suppose you've gone to pick up lunch for the board meeting, and you've asked your employees to prepare the board packets while you're away. Suddenly, the copier cuts out! The office's usual repairman is an hour away on another call, and the board meeting starts in just 30 minutes.
Thankfully, your new hires are creative and skilled at solving problems. One calls another copier repair shop to see if it can send someone sooner. A second employee takes the packets to an office on another floor and asks to use its copier. By the time you arrive with the food, the packets are done and the board meeting is set to begin.
The Ability to Learn
The most important soft skill for a new employee to have is the ability to learn. Soft skills operate best when an employee is willing and ready to learn. Not all job positions are going to involve the same duties over time. There will always be change, whether it's a change in technology or a change in operating procedures.
Adapting to change may require pursuing in-office training, attending out-of-office seminars, or even taking the initiative to study up on the latest trends and procedures as they relate to new tasks. Proactive employees are productive employees.
How do you know if an employee has the ability to learn? Look for indicators in his or her application, resume, and even during the interview. Sometimes these documents and conversations can provide evidence that an applicant is used to working through a problem by applying previous knowledge and researching new solutions. Check out the blog ''How to Evaluate a Job Candidate's Ability to Learn'' to learn how to identify some of these indicators.
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