Whether straight out of school, or with a few years’ experience under their belts, millennials bring an amazing array of hard skills across multiple fields to the table. However, many of today’s employers, who grew up in the ‘hard skills matter most’ era, often fall short on soft skills, specifically workplace communications and the more social side of business.
“College degrees and internships have given them the knowledge and specific skill sets to add to their portfolio, but inexperience of the business world have left them lacking in the soft skills department,” says Premie Naicker, CEO of AIGS.
She describes hard skills as being job-specific abilities, such as analytics, computer programming, accounting, finance analysis and similar, and soft skills as being more personality-driven abilities, such as professionalism, teamwork, communication, flexibility and suchlike.
She says by their nature, millennials are eager and ready to get down to business, having the impression that hard skills are what matters in the business world. “However, studies show that there is a blatant disconnect between the skills that business leaders and millennials deem to be important. Integrity, professionalism, good attitude are all vital to success in the workplace, but are being undervalued by today’s millennials, and although it is easier for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is far more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill.”
Naicker believes that the soft skills are developed and boosted over time, and that without them, it is virtually impossible for any employee to achieve success and promotion in the workplace. “Millennials are known for being technologically savvy, but soft skills don’t work that way. These are developed through on-the-job learning and face-to-face training initiatives.”
In order to introduce and integrate millennial employees into the workplace, learning, training and development teams should build programmes that focus on the soft skills deemed necessary to do well within the business. “These should include courses such as working effectively within a team, maintaining diplomacy while being assertive, positively processing feedback, as well as learning how to approach your manager for more coaching or mentoring.”
She says a good place to start is to set expectations about communication skills that employees will need to develop. “The ability to express themselves articulately, with clarity and simplicity, to engage one-on-one, within small groups and larger groups, in a way that is both engaging and accessible, are not easily learned.”
In addition, she says mentoring is very important to millennials. “Partner up new staff with a good mentor, that already has the soft skills you want the millennial to develop.”
While the battle between the importance of soft skills as opposed to hard skills in the workplace rages on, at the end of the day, Naicker says both skill sets are crucial for anyone wishing to thrive in today’s economic climate. Learning and development teams need to ensure that training initiatives focus on developing both skill sets, with an additional focus on soft skills for today’s millennials.