Employees entering the workforce today have access to more education and chances to build their skills than any other generation that has come before. This has resulted in an influx of workers with unprecedented hard skills – technical know-how, knowledge specific to their field, and related talents. New workers also bring with them an influx of new ideas and new energy that can help propel a company forward into the future. However, these hard skills often come with a price in the form of a strong correlation between Millennials and a soft skills gap. Many older managers complain that younger workers lack the soft skills necessary to be truly successful in their chosen field. There is an old business adage that states that hard skills may be what gets people hired, but soft skills are what prevent them from being fired. While the situation may not always be as dire as the saying makes it out to be, there is no doubt that soft skills are essential for workers of all ages.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills refer to abilities that are all be essential to succeed in business, but that may not be measurable on an MBA exam. They include skills like communication, professional respect, punctuality, and other things that bosses notice even if they do not directly affect an employee’s ability to do his or her job. According to some analysts, a big factor in the Millennial soft skill gap is that these skills are not stressed as much in social situations and so new hires may not carry them over to the workplace.
How to Identify Soft Skills Early On
Teach your hiring managers and managers who conduct interviews to look for soft skills during the interview process. You may have to overhaul your hiring best practices in order to get the results you want, but it is a good way to weed out the applicants who don’t have what it to succeed in your company. Since soft skills can be difficult to gauge during a brief interview, it is best to narrow down your requirements to one or two skills you think are essential.
Training Employees in Need
The best thing to do to bridge the Millennial soft skill gap is to provide workers with the training they need to meet the standards of your workplace. Recognize that the skill gap is a not uncommon problem, and start shuffling new workers into the appropriate training programs early and often. Another way to get workers up to speed on your expectations is to create a mentoring program where older employees walk newer ones through the crucial first few weeks.
Recognize that some of the things your younger workers do that seem like a lack of soft skills to older members of management may actually work perfectly well for the younger generation. For example, managers are often irked by what they perceive as the unprofessional nature of maintaining work relationships on social media platforms like Facebook. However, for many young people, communicating on social media is quite natural and there is nothing inherently unprofessional about it. You may want to ask yourself who it is really hurting if your younger workers prefer to make first contact on Facebook or Twitter rather than by phone or in person.
Update Your Leadership Programs
When preparing leadership programs or other materials to help bridge the Millennial soft skills gap, focus on who your audience is. Make sure that your training programs address the issues you most want to focus on, rather than ones that already seem out of date in the rapidly changing world of business. Consider incorporating more technology if that’s what your new workers feel comfortable with, and get a variety of voices, both young and old. If you’re not sure where to start, hire a consultant or conduct surveys after the training program so you can continue to improve it.
Focus on the Positive
Before you throw your hands up in frustration at your new Millennial employees, consider everything they do bring to the company. Chances are this will put the Millennial soft skill gap in perspective and allow you to more accurately plan how you will address it. When choosing mentors, pick ones who are upbeat and positive. Millennials, just like everyone else, can easily become discouraged if they are made to feel like they can’t do anything right. For more tips to hire expert workers and ideas for how to make the most of the employees you already have, check out the resources available from Mighty Recruiter.