I know I am not alone in that I take great care when I hire staff; I conduct multiple interviews, set practical tasks and sometimes undertake personality profiling. I will bring my best ‘people people’ to observe each candidate closely.
Like most employers, I have my favourite questions and also like most, they apply irrespective of the job title. Most are not aimed at eliciting role-specific or technical skills, but rather to examine character traits that are vital to a person’s future success in the role.
Asking people to recall their best and worst supervisors is a favourite of mine; I love to hear their view of how they should and should not be treated, together with what they did about it. The latter point is often a great indicator of their response to stress and as I drill into their responses I gain insight into people skills and communication.
I ask about their successes but I get even more value when I ask about their failures, and more specifically how they learned from them.
Another is to list their top three values, if only to see whether they are introspective, honest and likely to enjoy our culture. With a little digging, this question also sorts the clear thinkers from the rest. It highlights introspection too.
In the second round comes a skills test where I am looking for nuances – the practical tasks tell me if the person can do the job, sure but I am much more interested in hearing the questions they ask me as they perform them. I am studying faces. They won’t know it, but I will so,etimes hire people who fail the test miserably, but go down fighting. I know I can teach technical skills to people if their attitude is right.
In short, like all employers I prize soft skills highly.
So why is it that my company sells dozens of times more compliance courses than soft skills courses? Why are we so often asked whether we offer soft skills courses only to be told eventually that budget was not approved?
If soft skills are an organisational priority, it’s incongruous that they are not a training priority. Yet clients often tell us that the training they deliver is geared towards regulatory priorities to the exclusion of any other.
I am generalising somewhat and you only had to attend LearnX last week, or the AITD awards night to see some really innovative counter examples, but especially in smaller more financially constrained organisations there is a concerning trend. It is ironic that it is precisely these organisations with their small, closer-working teams that have the most to gain.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to challenge the stereotype that training is about compliance? When management is already trying so hard to recruit soft skills, can it really be so hard to preach to the converted that they should train them too?
Next time you make a budget submission, perhaps focus a little less on ‘completion rates for mandatory training’, and a little more on alignment to culture and broader organisational goals and see how you go… I dare you!