or why you need to care about people skills when hiring a technology professional.
Working with technology professionals it is easy to forget that it is not enough to know all the technical skills and software proficiencies. When it’s time to add new members to a work team, don’t minimize the importance of “soft skills”. Whether it’s a temp, contract or most importantly permanent hire, communicating and ‘fitting in’ with an existing, hopefully already cohesive team is just as important (or perhaps even more so) than the technical ‘KSAs’. To be clear I am in no way downplaying the importance of a candidate having the correct skills and capabilities you need to fill the role, but if they aren’t a good fit with the team and your corporate culture how successful can they truly be? A recent study stated “a majority of respondents said new hires are not well-prepared to perform at a high level in a professional environment, primarily because of insufficient soft skills (Bloomberg Next, April 2018 “Building Tomorrow’s Talent: Collaboration Can Close the Emerging Skills Gap“)
What do we mean, when we say soft skills? In very generic terms soft skills are defined as ‘the ability to communicate with others and work well together’. Kind of sounds like kindergarten – use your words, play nicely and keep your hands to yourself (we are going to assume that one is a no brainer.) Let’s examine that very generic definition and see how it relates specifically to the world of technology staff. There has been a general assumption that being a tech professional means you are socially awkward and that just isn’t true. I once knew a VP of IT who suggested that they just lock the programmers in a room and throw in food occasionally, I’m pretty sure she was kidding. According to the LINUX Academy the most important soft skills for technology professionals – and probably for the rest of us, too – are communication, teamwork, problem-solving, customer service and open-mindedness. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these five soft skills and relate them to the world of technology.
1. COMMUNICATION has two sides, talking and listening. And, as the adage goes, you have two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk. Technical professionals have two main communication needs – interpreting some very creative descriptions of what an end-user wants and translating it into technical language and vice versa. When you are explaining what a specific program or process does, you need to be able to relate that in a way that your client understands. Your client can be internal or external but either way its highly unlikely that they speak ‘tech.’ The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is as important within your team as it is with external ‘clients’ and ‘users’. If you ever hope to lead a team it is paramount to your success.
2. TEAMWORK was a tech skill, long before the corporate world decided teams were a key component of the modern workplace. There are many reasons for this, specifically when you consider technical capabilities; one team member may be a highly skilled programmer, another is a user interface expert and still another is an amazingly accurate product tester – essentially your team has infinite skills available when you work collaboratively. Teams are a valuable and inevitable part of working in technology, almost every project is taken on by a team composed of a variety of technical professionals.
3. PROBLEM-SOLVING is pretty much the whole reason for technology. As in life itself, there is no such thing as a problem-free project – or day, it frequently seems! Problems or opportunities as some positive thinkers like to call them are a fact of life. They seem to appear out of nowhere at times as they rain down on you. But if you have the skills to handle a problem without being overwhelmed you are halfway to a solution. Proper preparation can help you be ready to address problems when they arise. This is an excellent collaboration opportunity to solve a problem quickly and efficiently.
4. CUSTOMER SERVICE is a relatively new skill for the technology professional. As little as ten years ago, a tech could be successful in their role with little to no customer interaction. That’s no longer true, today relationship building, and the customer experience are paramount. Whether your customer is internal or external, a big part of your success is based on how well your technology team can communicate with their customers. Its also key to keep in mind that customer service goes up the chain as well – effective communications with team leaders, managers and so on up the food chain is a highly valued skill.
5. OPEN-MINDEDNESS is more a mindset than a skill. When you consider that technology seems to change daily; having an open mind is required. Information and data are blasted to us with a fire hose; in the corporate world the demand to be smarter, faster and more secure can be too much to comprehend. By keeping an open mind, technology professionals can learn valuable information and expand their skills from many sources including your own associates and other teams, departments, companies, and even clients.
Without doubt, effective COMMUNICATION is the number one soft skill companies look for today. In fact, the other four skills we list above build off communications. There is no end to the value an effective communicator can bring to your organization especially if this a new area of competence for your team. Be sure your organization and technology recruiters know what communication capabilities your team needs and make them an integral part of your new team member profile.
At GATE, as technology recruiters, we understand the importance of soft skills as they apply to today’s technology professionals. We know for a new team member to be the proper fit for your organization they need to be aligned with your Mission, Values, and Goals. That’s why before we even start the interviewing process to find the right staff, we get to know your business and how it works. We make every effort to ensure the candidate we send you is a perfect fit with the right technical and soft skills your organization values most.
Interested in reading more on this subject? See “Hiring Without These “Soft Skills” is a Recipe for Disaster” by Lou Adler (April 29, 2019). The infographic on ‘Measuring Quality of Hire’ is very interesting!