Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It’s the Soft Stuff That’s Really the Hard Stuff

Excerpts from press release and article reprinted with permission from Right Management:

Job seekers who focus on selling their experience or technical skills may be missing out in today’s job market, according to new research by Right Management. Organizations are looking for people with a good motivational fit with the team and the organization’s culture.

A recent Right Management study of close to nearly 900 senior leaders and Human Resource professionals revealed surprising insights into just what factors lead most frequently to on-the-job success. Respondents overwhelmingly pointed not to employees’ technical skills, expertise or experience, but to other, very different qualities: organizational culture and motivational fit, as well as savvy, appropriate interpersonal skills. For example, the number of respondents who felt that “organizational culture/motivational fit” contributes most to accelerated performance was more than 2 ½ times greater than those who pointed to “technical skills” or “relevant experience” as the most significant factor.

These findings have implications for both job seekers and for leadership development.

Implications for job seekers:

“Immediate, on-the-job performance is so essential these days,” said Michael Haid, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Right Management. “New hires need to get up to speed fast and make a smooth transition into the new environment.”

Haid advises job seekers to understand the culture of the prospective employer in advance of the interview. “There’s a lot you can learn about an organization by tapping your online and traditional network. Ask your contacts for advice on how they think you would fit in and what the obstacles may be.”

Job seekers should highlight in their resumes and during interviews how their interpersonal and work skills will align with the company’s culture, according to Haid. “Share examples of how your motivation or interpersonal skills helped you to overcome barriers or solve problems. And if appropriate, look for opportunities to share how your values are aligned with those of the organization.”

Haid notes that increasingly employers are using assessments to identify fit and alignment with cultures and values. “Assessments take the guess work out of what might otherwise be somewhat subjective evaluations.”

Implications for leadership development (from Right’s Michael Haid)

These insights have critical implications for an organization’s overall talent management strategy–most importantly for how to assess and develop high-potential leaders. While it’s possible to assess current and prospective employees for all factors cited in the Right Management survey, two factors– cultural and motivational fit–involve innate characteristics that can be difficult to coach or develop. How, then, should organizations proceed?

Organizations should consider these three steps to ensure high performance:

Analyze the basic elements of their organizational culture. Before determining whether individuals have the appropriate cultural and motivational fit, compa¬nies must first determine the key attributes of their own values, such as whether the organization prizes innovation or has a rigid chain of command. They also need to pinpoint the types of opportunities available throughout the organiza¬tion. For example, a company in a highly regulated industry that requires strict procedures to be followed wouldn’t be a good fit for an individual who thrives in an atmosphere of ambiguity.

Assess employees for organizational culture/motivational fit and interpersonal behavioral skills. Organizations should identify a pool of high-potential leaders, both at a junior and senior level, using past performance as a starting point. Then they can assess these individuals to determine, for example, those whose values are aligned with the corporate culture and who would be most likely to enjoy high levels of job satisfaction working in leadership roles within the organization.

In some cases, companies need to assess existing leaders for how they align with the organization’s current culture. If, however, the business is contemplating a change in strategy, the organization might assess individuals for their compat¬ibility with a future environment. In these cases, it’s likely the company also will need to assess talent from outside the organization.

Create a program to develop those leaders who make the cut. Once the most promising leaders have been identified, companies can take the next step: using assessment results to help individuals improve their interpersonal skills. That can include learning how to do everything from planning and delegating to building trust. Probably the best way to address gaps in interpersonal savvy is through coaching sessions during which people focus on appropriate behavior in specific business situations. In addition, leaders can be given job assignments aimed at addressing a broader range of interpersonal behaviors, or attend workshops to learn a discrete set of skills.

About Right Management and Michael Haid:
Right Management is the talent and career management expert within Manpower, the global leader in employment services. Right Management helps clients win in the changing world of work by designing and executing workforce solutions that align talent strategy with business strategy.

Michael Haid, Senior Vice President for Global Solutions, oversees Right’s Talent Assessment solutions portfolio, responsible for designing global, scalable individual, team and organiza¬tional assessment solutions delivered to meet critical and emerging business needs. Michael has more than 15 years of extensive consulting and leadership experience in the areas of selection, assessment and leadership development.


Fisher Vista, LLC said...

Very important research. But because it takes organizations a lot of work to self-identify organizational culture, job seekers will struggle with it prior to being interviewed. What to do?

Thanks, Dan!

--Kevin W. Grossman

davidburkus said...

Great post. I think you could take the post title and craft a good book around it.

sara canaday said...

Thank you for sharing the hard results from those who seek to hire and promote. With all the research and anecdotal data we have to support the development of "soft skills", its hard to believe that the concepts are still undervalued, and often overlooked. (both by those whose job it is to develop and by those who seek development)

Heath Davis Havlick said...

Thanks for this good post. Three cheers for soft skills! I've always been of the opinion that the actual job duties are secondary to cultural fit. You can learn duties. Cultural fit? Not so much. Someone who's awesome on paper could very well end up an enfant terrible.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kevin -
Great question! I'll bet social media has opended up more ways for job seekers to learn about a company, as well as talking to as many employees as you can.

David -
Thanks, I'll bet someone already did!

Sara -
yes it it!

Heath -
good point! thanks

30/60/90-Day Plan said...

This is a fantastic post! I think the best way to highlight those interpersonal skills and organizational fit is to create a 30/60/90-day plan for the interview. It shows the hiring manager exactly how you'll fit into the organization (and be successful), and turns the interview into a conversation between professionals. It highlights those qualities that the hiring manager is looking for. You can learn more about that here: http://30-60-90-day-sales-plan.com/30-60-90-day-sales-plan-with-audio.htm.
Best of luck,
Peggy McKee

Michael Haid said...

Thanks to all for your reactions and comments. It is very important that leaders identify the type of culture they are driving and select talent accordingly. It is equally important for job seekers to know what they are getting into.
Kevin- another way for job seekers to identify the potential employer's culture is to ask the first interviewer (turning the interview around a bit) for examples of how the company values are being exemplified, or what types of behaviors are seen as really good examples of the company culture...then position their own skills and expereinces within that context (if it can be done authentically)
--Michael Haid

Dan McCarthy said...

Michael -
Good advice, and thanks for checking and responding to comments.

Justin Dalton said...

A great post even if it is a year old! It is so easy to overlook the "soft skills" required for success in an organization.

Dan McCarthy said...

Justin -