Jonathan Lister is vice-president of global sales solutions and Canada country manager at LinkedIn
Rapid digital transformation is leading to massive work-force transformation across the country.
To shed light on today’s most in-demand skills among Canadian professionals, LinkedIn partnered with the Labour Market Information Council to analyze 400,000 Canadian jobs posted in 10 major cities across Canada. The findings revealed that contrary to common belief, soft skills such as business management, leadership and oral communication are the most coveted among employers.
This key finding represents a significant and underlying problem – that Canada is facing a soft-skills deficit. However, this is a challenge that exists not just nationally but on a global scale, too. Data indicate that world wide, the total shortage of people who possess soft skills is at 2.3 million – and this number will continue to rise unless we take steps to actively define, measure and assess for these skills. The implications of the growing skills gaps are serious. If employers are struggling to source local talent owing to a lack of skills necessary to fulfill a specific job – the result is an increased outsourcing of foreign talent, leaving Canadian job applicants waiting, in search of work. However, the challenge lies in accurately assessing these soft skills, because there is little consistency in how companies measure them.
So, what must we do to actively assess for soft skills?
1. Determine the soft skills most valued at your company, and define the skills needed for the role
According to recent data, 83 per cent of talent professionals in Canada believe that soft skills are increasingly important to company success. Consider assessing the skills that your top performers possess and benchmark against those skills. For example, a tool such as LinkedIn Skills Insights can provide details of where your employees excel or fall short. Meet with leaders at your company and align on the soft skills that your company needs.
Along with looking for the baseline of skills that are needed throughout your company, it’s also important to identify the right soft skills since they can be unique to each role. Given that soft skills are less tangible than hard skills, HR and talent leaders should agree on the most important soft skills needed for a specific role to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
2. Consider online tools to pre-screen candidates
There are a variety of online assessment tools such as Koru and Pymetrics that enable candidates to take an online assessment as they are applying for a role. This will help provide recruiters with the insights needed to guide interviews and help identify their strengths and weaknesses. For example, by analyzing the way candidates answer questions or play games, these tools can help assess their soft skills systematically and ideally with less bias.
It’s also important that hiring professionals focus their time pre-screening candidates for soft skills who already have the hard skills necessary to succeed in their role. Tools such as LinkedIn’s Skill Assessment help with that.
3. Standardize your interview questions; however, be mindful of bias
Ask behavioural and situational interview questions consistently during interviews. Through ensuring that interviewers are asking a standard set of questions unique to the skills they are targeting, it will help draw direct comparisons.
Another technique for assessing candidate soft skills in action is to ask them to solve a problem with their hard skills, and then introduce a new constraint and condition – this way you’ll be able to see how they adapt to change, respond to feedback and communicate their thinking and approach.
However, be mindful that unstructured interviews can be highly susceptible to unconscious bias. For example, during an interview, you might be influenced by similarity bias – preferring a candidate because they remind you of yourself. Consider using diverse interview panels to mitigate this potential bias.
Rapidly changing roles and skills are creating uncertainty that requires stronger leadership and communication skills to navigate. As a necessary part of this change, employers need to be able to accurately identify and assess these soft skills. Through data-driven insights, employers will have a better understanding of how to handle the changing world of work and will ultimately be better equipped to attract the right talent.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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