Why Human Skills Outweigh Hard Skills

Why Human Skills Outweigh Hard Skills

Most HR and recruiting leaders today are familiar with the reality of the phrase “skills are the new currency.”

They’re what employers look for most in their candidates, what employees are rewarded for, and what can make—or break—an organization’s future.

This wasn’t the case all that long ago—even just a few years ago. Traditionally, employers based their people strategy and its alignment to the business strategy around jobs—they were clearly defined, had measurable outcomes, and sat in a neat organizational chart. As the digital age took over, things started to get a little blurrier—and the pandemic and the many ensuing shifts in the workplace accelerated those changes rapidly.

Today, work looks markedly different: Employees may jump from project to project, team to team, the lines between roles getting increasingly fluid—meaning workers need to bring skills, not necessarily the rigidly defined work and educational experiences needed for success in the past. And as remote work rises, employee expectations change, and digital advancement speeds up by the day, employers will need to focus on building a workforce that has the skills of tomorrow to succeed today through these disruptions.

Those challenges of the last few years, however, have also upended what skills are of value to employers. Whereas in previous work models, employers might have sought a workforce with highly technical skills or specialized expertise, that has shifted: Now, it should be all about the human skills.

The pandemic tells the story of why: When working parents were forced to take on double duty as schools closed, it was the empathy their managers showed that motivated them to stick around after the crisis subsided. When organizations went remote, then brought workers back, then went remote again after continuous outbreaks, it was workers’ agility and resiliency that allowed the company to weather the storm. And as employees increasingly press for new benefits and enhanced flexibility, the employee-employer relationship requires a new level of trust.

So, today the mantra needs to be: Hire for attitude, train for aptitude. Technical skills can be taught in a classroom and through hands-on practice, but qualities like empathy, agility, and trustworthiness aren’t quite as easily coached. Workers who bring these essential human skills to the job—even if they don’t check every box on the list of hard skills an employer might also be looking for—will be uniquely positioned to help their team and the entire organization move forward. That may be a bit of a mindset shift for HR and recruiting leaders but, to be truly forward-thinking, employers need to equip themselves with a workforce that can seamlessly handle challenges, overcome obstacles, and keep up with constant change. And that means it’s all about the human skills.