Soft Skills Are in Demand. Can They Be Measured?

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Whether or not soft skills are important in the workplace is no longer up for debate. We’ve written in depth about the topic, and we’re not the only ones. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report identified soft skills as the biggest trend transforming the talent landscape, with 80 percent of respondents saying employees’ soft skills are critical to a company’s success and 92 percent saying they matter as much or more than hard skills.

And yet, the report also suggests that more than half of companies still struggle to accurately assess their team members’ soft skills, most relying on informal, instinct-based processes. Of those that do use formal assessment processes, an overwhelming three quarters still hang their determinations on behavioral and situational questions asked during interviews. While these questions could certainly help interviewers get a sense of a candidate’s soft skills, the responses are frequently biased, almost always rehearsed, and too reflective to be truly accurate.

There must be a better way.

3 Steps to Accurately & Objectively Building Soft Skills Within Your Organization

1.   Identify the Skills You’re Looking for

No matter what new systems you’re looking to implement or innovations you’re eager to adopt, the first step, clearly identifying the problem you want to solve, is easy to overlook in the rush to make things happen. But knowing which problem you want to solve—in this case, which soft skills your organization needs most—is critical to actually solving it.

At Shell, for example, when leadership realized consensus didn’t always lead to the best decisions, they started looking for candidates who have the gumption to challenge accepted beliefs appropriately and effectively in order to drive innovation. Other companies may be looking for creative thinkers or employees with great time management skills. Every company needs team members with strong communication skills.

Whatever particular soft skills will help your company grow, identifying what they are will empower you to develop a system to help you find employees who possess them—and help existing employees strengthen their own.

2.   Employ a Mix of Assessment Strategies—Including AI-Driven Assessments

Shell understands that many traditional approaches to assessing soft skills are too subjective to be very useful. Instead, they employ a variety of approaches—from interview questions to presentations to online trainings—designed to dig up “rigorous evidence” that a candidate possesses the soft skills they’re looking for.

“We find using a variety of assessment methods gives us a much more accurate and rounded view of the candidate,” says Debbie Foley, Shell’s head of global marketing.

And one assessment style Shell and many other companies are beginning to add to their repertoire is the AI-powered assessment, which empowers them to evaluate large groups of people and receive objective, data-driven measurements that are far more accurate than the results of any subjective assessment tool.

So how does this work? To take a look, let’s consider the most foundational soft skill: communication. Innovations in technologies like natural language processing, vocal recognition, and facial analysis mean that, today, machines can assess a professional’s predicted impact on her audience—how trustworthy others will find her, or how inclusive, open-minded, or confident—identifying not only whether she possesses the communication skills the company is looking for, but whether her communication style indicates that she’ll be a good cultural and behavioral fit for the organization.

Imagine taking a pool of candidates and using behavioral analytics to assess their soft skills and their potential performance against the top 10 employees in your organization. Your hiring process just got a whole lot easier and a whole lot more accurate.

3.   Use Assessments as Springboards for Development

But don’t stop at those initial assessments. Skills development is critical for both organizational growth and employee engagement, and these AI-driven assessments provide the perfect springboard for that development. Built on years of academic research and input from world-class communication experts, the Quantified platform goes deeper than initial insights, providing each user with a personalized development plan based on his or her initial evaluation. This includes the specific feedback and actionable recommendations for improvement in key development areas, tailored to each individual’s needs as well as the organization’s overall development goals.

With these innovative assessment models, human resources leaders can not only evaluate candidates’ soft skills to predict organizational fits, but they can also support growth and loyalty by measuring and improving current employees’ skills–objectively, accurately, and at scale.

Traditionally, assessing soft skills has been little more than a game of chance. But today, organizations and their leaders have the opportunity to apply innovative new technologies to measure—rather than guess at—these critical predictors of workplace performance.