Developing a Career-Ready Workforce, Part 1: Understanding Power Skills and their Role in the Workplace

Posted by Rachel Levy Wexler on 7/28/16 11:00 AM

7d2038f08baa8bd250a9ca866d416386.jpgCommon misconception: Once an individual learns the technical skills required of a particular trade, this person is also ready to succeed in their career. Unfortunately, many employees who enter the workforce lack the essential skills needed to thrive in a professional setting. According to a new report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 68% of HR professionals report having a difficult time recruiting in today’s talent market.Within such a competitive market, what can organizations do to prepare the next generation of workers to be career-ready? 

In this four-part series on developing a career-ready workforce, we will explore the challenges posed by the current skills shortage and highlight key areas where organizations should focus their attention – specifically, why they should be focused on developing Power Skills of employees. We will conclude by exploring how organizations can take a more active role in developing the next generation of the workforce to be career-ready.

Defining Power Skills

Commonly known as “soft skills,” Power Skills encapsulate the personal attributes that indicate high levels of emotional intelligence. While hard skills describe technical abilities that can be easily measured and quantified, soft skills are referred to as Power Skills because they are capabilities that differentiate performance. It is often said that “hard skills may get you the interview, but soft skills are needed to get – and keep – the job.” This phrase speaks to the fact that while the tasks of an individual position may be easy to learn, a mastery of interpersonal Power Skills are the key to a successful workplace and required across every role to make a business stronger. Many of these skills are also required of employees to move into management or earn a promotion as a specialized individual contributor.

The Power Skills Shortage

Across the board, organizations are challenged to find talent with the adequate Power Skills training to succeed in their position and positively impact the outcomes for the business. A recent study by Adecco found that 44% of senior executive respondents believe that Americans lack soft skills. Compare that number to only 22% of respondents who believe Americans lack the necessary technical skills and 12% who believe they lack the necessary software skills.2 Furthermore, 84% of HR professionals reported applied skills shortages in job applicants over the last year.1 Unlike industry-specific hard skills, Power Skills are applicable (and needed) across all positions and businesses, making the impact of their shortage more acute across the country.

Why Should Employers Care About the Power Skills Shortage?

Creating work-ready employees not only involves teaching them the foundational skills to do the job, but also the personal and interpersonal skills to succeed on the job. Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.3 When graduates and young professionals across all industries are empowered with the appropriate Power Skills, they are better able to become successful and productive employees for your organization.  

Though specific employers may value certain Power Skills over others, several models have been created to outline the universal sets of skills applicable to employees across all major industries. The Network of National Business and Industry Association’s Common Employability Skills (CES) framework4 breaks down employability skills into the four target areas of personal skills, people skills, workplace skills and applied knowledge skills. Employers benefit from the framework because they are better able to identify the common skills that all their employees should exhibit, and educators can know which foundational skills to emphasize.

A cross-reference with industry-specific competency models published by the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration,5 it is clear that there is a high degree of overlap among the recommended and required skills that are valued across some of the most high growth careers, including retail, allied health, and more. When considering the skills that surround applied knowledge and academic learning, we can further classify the Power Skills into two buckets: Personal Effectiveness Skills and Workplace Competencies.

Check back here next week for part two of the Developing a Career-Ready Workforce series, where we will continue our deep dive into personal effectiveness skills, the value they provide to employers and ultimately, what organizations can do to help develop them for a career-ready workforce.

Recommended for you: 4 Ways New Hires Struggle (And What You Can Do About It)

Resources: Photo Credit (1) The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages (2) Watch the Skills Gap (3) The Soft Skills Disconnect (4) Common Employability Skills (5) Career One Stop Competency Models

Topics: Employers

 

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