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Hard Skills Are So Yesterday.

It’s hard to keep up with all the new terms and language that are thrown around in the HR/talent management space.  Take, for instance, the ever important ‘soft skills’ or ‘interpersonal skills’.  The more woke population now refer to these as POWER SKILLS.  Without these so-called Power Skills, effective decision-making, teamwork, negotiation, leadership, and more — basically anything that helps someone function in today’s work environment — wouldn’t be possible.  These are the skills that they don’t teach you in college and are much trickier to learn.  We’ve been hearing about the trend for some time, but has that time finally come?  Are organizations finally looking less at experience and degrees and focusing more on traits and behaviors that help someone function in a job setting?

There are a few thought leaders who have been evangelizing the need for Power Skills.  In fact, Josh Bersin has been talking about this for a few years now.  In 2018, an IBM Institute for Business Value study listed “Willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change” as the number one Power Skill needed for leaders.  This was two years before we got slammed by a global pandemic and, not surprisingly, Resilience has surfaced as the number one sought after Power Skill for 2022 (That sounds a lot like what IBM listed as the most important skill in 2018.).  And while it says it’s needed for executives and leaders, I’d argue that every person, regardless of role, regardless of position has required some level of resilience to be able to function in the work climate of the last couple of years – and the foreseeable future.

Yes, engineers, designers, and technical people need to know how to build and fix things (and we all have to know how to use our computers, tools, and systems at work). But as IBM’s research points out, CEOs and business leaders are now realizing that they can “buy” these technical skills (or build them internally, at ever-lower cost) relatively easily. Josh Bersin

It’s easy for an organization to say that they value these Power Skills, but the more difficult thing is putting their money where their mouth is and to be able to measure proficiency and hire for them.  It’s so much easier for companies to fall back on listing the hard skills, like experience and education as the means to find the most ‘qualified’ person for the job.  Hiring on hard skills alone may get you the most qualified, but will they fit with your company’s values and thrive in your company’s culture?

Can I Learn Power Skills?

Many learning content providers are building up their libraries to include more courseware focused on improving soft skills.  Judging by the number of vendors promoting courses for becoming more empathetic, building resiliency, and improving emotional intelligence, there is most definitely an appetite.  I’d also suggest that a good first step is to take a Behavioral Assessment.  These assessments provide visibility into strengths and limitations as they relate to traits and behaviors.  A little self-awareness goes a long way to understanding where you stand with regard to Power Skills and once you have awareness, you can work on improving them.

I am looking forward to a world (maybe not in my lifetime) where employers focus less on hard skills and are recruiting people with strong Power Skills. A world where employers put more emphasis on the traits and behaviors that someone brings to the job vs. a candidate’s alma mater and GPA.  I want to suggest that it’s never too late to work on your Power Skills.  Not only will they make you a more employable person, but they will make each of us better humans.

Want to see how your Power Skills stack up?

Jane Farquhar is the Director of Product Marketing at TalentQuest where she develops the go-to-market strategy for their talent management and learning solutions. Jane is a seasoned marketing professional whose career in the analytics and talent management technology space spans over 25 years.  She has held a wide range of field-facing and product marketing roles with industry-leading organizations Cognos, IBM-Kenexa and Saba.

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