“The hard truth about soft skills is that they can make or break your career” - Peggy Klaus
2016 was known as the ‘Year of hybrid jobs’, and that trend has continued onto 2017. In today's demanding workplace, a company requires more from candidates than just knowledge and experience. Although Hard Skills do make a good impression in the interview, but they do not guarantee job security. In order to compete in the employment market today, it is essential for a candidate to possess a rare combination of IQ and EQ, to have soft skills; something that cannot be taught.
Changes in technology are a major driving factor for the increasing need for hybrid jobs, as the business and technology functions of a firm, previously separate departments, are becoming more and more intertwined. It has been seen in the past five years, the openings for a social media strategist has decreased by 64%, while the skill of ‘social media strategy’ has risen up to 376% in Human Resource jobs, 115% in sales and 117% in public relations. This reflects the trend where previously specialized jobs have now gone mainstream, even being integrated into other roles in the firm.
In a report conducted by Bentley University, they found that firms now increasingly want ‘Multifaceted employees’ who possess hard skills such as computer technology, combined with traditional soft skills such as communication.
Demystifying Hard and Soft skills
‘’Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs’’. These skills can be gained with years of training, learning & experience. These are easily visible, specific, tangible, quantifiable and can be taught. Acquiring good Hard Skills means a higher IQ and expertise in the specific area. Some examples include analytical thinking, coding, programming, skills to operate a machine, anything provided by a degree, etc. depending on the domain.
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills. There are trainers and courses, but one has to largely imbibe these. Patience, Persuasion, Teamwork, cordiality, Time management, positivity, etiquette are some such examples. Soft skills largely involve EQ (emotional quotient) whereas hard skills involve IQ.
Impact of Hard & Soft skills in Employment
When we look at Employment, as per a recent survey by Careerbuilder, while 77% of hiring managers and HR professionals said soft skills are just as important as hard skills, 16% of those surveyed felt that soft skills were more important than hard skills. This is primarily because training on Hard skills is far more feasible.
The Top Ten most desired soft skills that employers seek while hiring are:
1. Strong work ethic – 73%
2. Dependability – 73%
3. Positive attitude – 72%
4. Self-motivation – 66%
5. Team-oriented – 60%
6. Organization & Multitasking skills – 57%
7. Ability to performance under pressure – 57%
8. Effective communication – 56 %
9. Flexibility at work – 51 %
10. Confidence – 46 %
We often find that companies are willing to pay multipliers in compensation, to hire certain well placed candidates. That’s because of the scarcity of talented candidates with the right skill-set for certain jobs.
‘’Demand for technical skills in Marketing and PR are on the rise’’
Several job positions that used to be reliant on only hard skills have now made it a necessity for employees to possess soft skills, and this is true vice versa as well. Employees whose jobs were more concerned with ‘Soft skills’ such as marketing and PR now need to learn hard skills as well such as learning how to evaluate data from programs such as Google Analytics, Oracle etc. in order to remain competitive. However, jobs that require these technical skills, especially if the job requires mainly soft skills, are higher paying than average. If an employee is utilizing both his hard and soft skills at his workplace, that employee is more likely to be paid more than someone who is only utilizing one set of skills.
Soft skills initially were undervalued but have progressively become a very important criterion. Earlier, most companies assumed that people knew how behave on the job, how to fit in a team, be punctual, self-motivated and take initiative to perform, but these are now very rare qualities to scout. Amongst several selection rounds today, apart from hard skills, there is emphasis on soft skills and cultural fitment. Critical thinking, social & creative skills, interpersonal and persuasion skills and having a pleasing personality are some of the basic traits for finding the right talent.
Economic changes and the shift from manufacturing to services have boosted the demand for soft skills in many cases. "The hard skills required for a company's success are ever-changing, while the most critical soft skills remain constant.” - Davis Bell from Instructure.
Finding hybrid candidates
As a recruiter, the main job is to now find candidates who can fill multiple positions at your firm. This can be a challenge, as the ideal candidate has to have a balanced knowledge of both hard and soft skills. Interviews are a crucial element when determining a candidate’s soft skills, questioning them about their behavior and actions during certain situations can give recruiters a lot of insight about their capabilities.
Versatility + Specialization = Job Security
Entering the hybrid job market
As a candidate, the main aim is to let the interviewers know that you are essentially a ‘Jack of all trades’. Firms are now looking for candidates who can do multiple tasks in different areas under one unified job title. While that may sound hard, it’s important to start preparing while you can. As a college student, taking electives in different kinds of subjects will help a lot. As a science student, taking a few seminars on Philosophy or History can actually show your employer that you have multiple skills. Taking ‘Nanodegrees’ if you’re already employed will work wonders for you resume and your credibility to the employer. Short term courses and tutorials will give you more knowledge and insight into what a hybrid job may demand. Learning is a lifetime activity after all!
The Evolution of Hybrid jobs
Over the years, Positions which were mainstream are fading away, while niche and innovative skills are more mainstream now. For instance, once in high demand “Social Media Strategist” position is now just a line item in the “Integrated Marketing Manager” role. For employers who are weighing the importance of multiple skill sets, the managers often choose to hire based on a good balance for the role.
Jobs which are primarily based on hard skills are generally seen as commodities by firms. Once the job can be automated, the job is essentially no longer important to them. Retaining soft skills will not only make an employer think twice before firing an employee, it also works where automation cannot. The unique ‘Humanizing’ touch is what makes hybrid jobs all the more valuable.
Employers now seek candidates who have an exposure to multiple roles, with a combination of key soft skills. “Intellectual curiosity” is a primary Soft skill to fill hybrid roles as per Len Morrison, from Bentley University. Along with the evolution of economies, roles and skill requirements are also rapidly changing and as per Paul D’Arcy at Indeed:
“For people with the right skills, these are the glory days. For everybody else, it’s as if the recession never ended.”
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