The Top Skills Companies Need — and How to Help Your Employees Develop Them

October 18, 2018

If you had to guess the most valuable skill that companies are hiring for today, what would you say?

We’ve certainly heard a lot about machine learning, cloud and distributed computing, data mining, and so on. But if you guessed those, sadly you’d be wrong.

According to Tamar Elkeles, the chief talent executive for Atlantic Bridge Capital and two-time CLO of the year from Chief Learning Officer magazine, the No. 1 skill that is “most important for the future of learning” is:


Who’d a thunk?

This is according to research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. And, during her presentation at Talent Connect 2018, Tamar said that this is one of the skills that will bring companies success, now and in the future. But many aren’t focused on hiring and developing soft skills like this.

According to Harvard’s research, thinking was followed by self-understanding, empathy, ethics, and communication.

“That’s what we should be focused on,” says Tamar. “Those top five. . . . These are the most important skills that we can be developing in our talent.”

According to her, companies need to rethink how they recruit and reskill employees in order to make sure they aren’t overlooking the most important skills. Here’s how you can:

Use online assessments or targeted interview questions to screen for these soft skills

In order to hire employees who will be successful in the long run, these skills should be top of mind during the hiring process. And it’s important to note that that the No. 6 skill on the list is learning to learn — the ability to continually gain, process, and assimilate new knowledge and skills. Employees who have that skill have the best chance of developing and enhancing the other five.

How can you identify the applicants who have these soft skills? It’s not easy — more than 60% of hiring managers told LinkedIn that screening for soft skills is a challenge.

But it is doable. Consider using predictive online assessments, asking targeted interview questions, or assigning problems that require soft skills.

Give employees a chance to develop new skills with mobile, 24/7 instruction

In her talk, Tamar said that companies need to find other ways to deliver new skills to employees. “They’re not going to be sitting in training classes anymore,” she said. “They’re not going to want that traditional way that we’re providing learning.”

What will they want instead? For starters, she says, they’ll want instruction that is “always mobile, and it’s always on.”

She also stressed the critical importance of keeping your curriculum fresh. “If you’ve been offering and/or developing and/or delivering a program for more than three years,” she said, “get rid of it. Start all over. It’s irrelevant.”

Tamar doesn’t have much patience with slow-developing curriculum either. “Accelerate everything,” she said. “Speed is important. I would say launch and then learn. We wait a long time to get everything perfect before we release it to the organization.”

There’s no need to hold on, however. “Life is in beta,” she said.

Final thoughts: Helping your workforce develop will boost your retention

Tamar pointed out that companies that help employees develop and fortify these skills have an enormous competitive advantage. “The No. 1 reason an employee stays with a company today is for career growth,” she said.

The external purpose of today’s workers, she said, is to change the world, and the internal purpose, to change themselves.

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