A very popular term in Human Resources for the last ten years, soft skills have a much older origin... As with many innovations, the term originated in the US military in the 1960s, hence its English name.
They are identified today as the most important skills to assess by nearly 9 out of 10 recruiters.
Yet, the assessment of these abilities is still too often reduced to declarative statements during job interviews.
Does this paradox raise a lack of solution for organizations? Are there any good practices to overcome this?
To answer these two questions, we will start by defining what soft skills are, and then we will try to understand what makes them so special in the eyes of recruiters.
1 - What is a soft skill?
This question is at least as delicate as the evaluation of these skills...
Indeed, there is no precise framework to define soft skills. They are related to behavior.
To illustrate them, ten or so of these skills are regularly mentioned, such as creativity, adaptability, stress management or empathy...
To simplify their understanding, they are generally contrasted with hard skills, the technical skills directly related to a job such as mastering a foreign language or software engineering.
At Yuzu we consider soft skills as the ability to adapt one's behavior according to the situation: to know how to manage stress, to be autonomous, to be in a learning situation...
2 - Why have these skills become so important?
If we keep this duality between soft and hard skills, which represents the set of skills in the working world, then Moore's Law clearly explains the preference of specialists for behavioral skills.
Computers and components are getting smaller and smaller, more powerful, and less and less expensive. Technically they are more efficient than we are or they are becoming more efficient very quickly.
The evolution of the size of computers is a good illustration of Moore’s law
On the other hand, soft skills are human skills, which have a much longer lifespan, not to say infinite. Behavioral change is generational, progressive, and not subject to sudden innovations.
As far as studies are concerned, if 9 recruiters out of 10 consider soft skills as a priority, the figures related to recruitment errors confirm this. 89% of failures (departure of the employee less than a year after joining the company) would be directly related to behavioral skills against only 11% for technical skills.
The reason for these failures is directly linked to our theme: it is much easier to evaluate technical skills such as the ability to master software than to evaluate soft skills such as team spirit.
3 - How to assess soft skills?
First of all, soft skills are difficult to identify and evaluate because they are skills that can only be observed in real-life situations.
It is difficult to get a quality answer to questions such as "How do you manage your stress?" or "Are you a team player?".
Unfortunately, this is still largely the norm today, as candidates are largely judged on their ability to sell themselves in job interviews.
On the other hand, tools and methods exist, or are emerging, to assess soft skills and objectify the candidates assessment.
Over the past 20 years, web platforms have emerged. They generally offer psychometric tests in the form of online questionnaires, which integrate personality, motivation and reasoning and from this, an analysis of soft skills.
The best offer on the market remains that of the Assessment Centers, the Rolls Royces of assessment. These practices are recognized as the most reliable by recruitment experts. It involves putting candidates in situations through various psychometric tests and role-playing. It is an approach that is based on what candidates actually do and not on diplomas or statements.
The main disadvantages of Assessment Centers are the logistics and the costs involved, since several candidates and recruiters have to be coordinated in person. This efficient approach is therefore mainly reserved for companies that can afford it, and it seems to be becoming less and less suitable with the digitalization of the professional world.
In response to this, a new generation of players is emerging, offering a solution based on the methods of Assessment Centers and the agility offered by digital technology. This is the case of Yuzu, since we have chosen to use the latest video game technologies to immerse candidates in virtual situations.
Image taken from a Yuzu Assessment
Realistic situations are the key elements in the soft skills assessment.
Whether you conduct them in-person or in a more digitalized process, they allow you to concretely see the candidate's potential in a given situation.
If the practices that have proven themselves over the years have not necessarily been adapted to the new needs of HR teams, new technological players are emerging with the same service standards, while adding agility and a touch of immersion that is not negligible for the employer brand.