Hard skills vs soft skills. Is the perpetual talent debate, right?
There’s been a lot of discussion in the media and online about the importance of soft skills. These are the interpersonal skills required for better interactions and relationships in the workplace, and include factors such as:
- Communications skills
- Listening skills
- Social skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Conflict management
- Attitude to the job, the workplace and the business
- Team building ability
- Work ethic
- Emotional intelligence
- … amongst others…
Conversely, the limelight of industry discussion hasn’t focused on the hard skills of talent. These are the technical, job-specific skills required for an individual to be able to successfully do the job at hand. These skills are more quantifiable and typically easier to learn than soft skills.
For example, the technical skills of a recruiter could be their ability to multi-task, to pick the best fit person for a role, and to achieve a high retention rate of appointed talent. The recruiter’s soft skills could include their communication style, their ability to listen to both their client and candidate, and their powers of persuasion for engaging prospective talent.
Today, we’re focusing on the hard skills of your workers – the key skills of your workforce, responsible for delivering output, productivity, results.
Categories of Hard Skills
There are multiple categories of hard skills. Provided here, a broad scope of the major categories, some of which will apply to your business, and some will not. Mostly, these are best considered as food for thought, in consideration of the technical skills that may be required in your business.
- Analytical and investigative abilities
- Understanding, translating and communicating technical analyses
- Data interpretation
- Uncovering ideas and solutions derived from research data
Professional Services Skills:
- Achieved through extensive education and training
- Often specialised in the corporate or medical fields
- Include skills in categories such as computer programming and design, engineering, law, medicine, finance and accounting
- These are typically trade-based skills, learned through education and on-the-job training
- Include electrical, construction, manufacturing and similar
- More specific skills in the creative fields
- Include writing, design, art, animation, marketing amongst others
- These are the skills associated with specific methodologies that govern how the skills are executed
- Include teaching, project management, budgeting and planning, administration management, risk management
Understanding Technical Skills In Your Business
In your business, understanding the clear delineation of skills can be a powerful knowledge asset. Particularly during times of hiring – both permanent and contingent talent. Think of technical skills in this way:
- The proficiency of a worker to be able to complete a complex task
- Ability of a worker to speak multiple languages
- Practical skills associated with a job, backed up by experience and accreditation
- Skills that are easier to teach, given the individual’s aptitude and passion for the skill
- Hard skills have rules that remain the same, regardless of the company, industry or environment in which they are deployed
- Hard skills may be learned via education, from reading or online learning, or through apprenticeships. There are levels of competency associated with hard skills and there is a direct path for achieving them
Technical skills are often considered a ‘given’ in the hiring process. If a worker’s credentials check out, and their experience is proven, the focus will shift to the individual’s soft skills. However, keep in mind, it’s a cross-section of hard skills in your business that is key to a balanced, successful workforce. Soft skills are important, yes. But no more than the hard skills of your workforce.
If you’d like to discuss the hard skills of the workers in your business, you can reach out to me here. I look forward to hearing from you.