Yeah, it’s nothing new, the growing lack of soft skills is a problem for companies, and senior-level executives recognize they have this problem. Increasingly, more and more people lack the skills we take for granted. In a company environment this deficit has a wide ranging effect, negatively impacting every aspect of an organization’s effectiveness, dragging down overall performance, which, in turn impacts profitability and by extension, share prices. It’s a lose / lose proposition; those at boardroom level get it even if, at the lower echelons, they do not.
I contend it’s the result of a digitally-connected world where we virtually interact; meanwhile, we’ve disconnected and separated ourselves from the real world and real people. I am sorry but video conferencing and Skype are no substitutes for face-to-face meetings, which involve an actual handshake. It’s no wonder there are so many references to zombies, because that describes about half of the people I see each day with their heads buried in some hand-held toy as they bumble along, running into people, stationary objects and occasionally into traffic.
And guess what, this growing disconnection is slowly disintegrating the remnants of human interaction, meanwhile rotting companies from the inside out – extending into the hiring process by infected and dumbed-down people who are supposed to interview and evaluate potential new employees.
Many companies know well the value of soft skills and the danger of the lack thereof. Do an online search for articles regarding soft skills and you’ll see how much attention this topic is receiving. It is a growing problem in my work, but not so much because of a lack of skills in potential employees, although it is a problem. But it is becoming harder to find company decision makers, both in management and HR, whose communication abilities are limited to the formulaic processes they have adopted. It sometimes seems their ability to articulate has left them; it reminds me of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (preferably the 1956 version of the film). Meanwhile, senior management has begun to put out the call to look for and better evaluate soft skills abilities in potential employees.
But here’s the sad irony: how do HR and middle managers identify, evaluate and select those with advanced soft skills, when they themselves lack the very skills they are supposed to identify? This is a problem.
I find it increasingly hard to have substantive conversations with those whose job it is to screen and process potential employees; they know virtually nothing about the jobs for which they are screening people. Furthermore, you find that beyond their own departments, many know painfully little about the company for which they work. Increasingly, their knowledge of the jobs they are tasked to fill is limited to the rudimentary job description you yourself enquired about, or they reflexively point to psychometric testing for the info they are no longer capable of identifying on their own. So, in actuality, by intentionally removing human interaction for the sake of simplifying and standardizing in order to streamline the hiring process, they are in reality rendering themselves irrelevant to the process.
Although, this should not depress you but, instead, give hope to those of us who are still effective communicators. However, if you find yourself seated before one of these dumbed-down shells of their former selves, be kind. You have little choice but to humor and accommodate them, until you can actually meet someone who knows what’s going on. Or, as I seek to do at every opportunity, go around obstacles and distractions; aim for and reach out directly to the hiring manager any time you’re able to do so.