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Doug Bonestroo, VP of Business Development, Agile Frameworks

Hiring Gen Z – The Soft Skills Conundrum

You are very careful in your recruiting, selection, and hiring process and, yet, it is getting harder and harder to figure out which young job candidates to hire. Should you hire the promising new graduate with impressive freshly minted credentials indicating valuable technical skills, even though he seems like he might be yet another new graduate lacking in some of those elusive yet critical “soft skills”?

It seems like more and more of your young new-hires are not working out. They make very little effort to “fit in.” Does every single one of them expect to be treated like a “special case”? They often don’t seem to appreciate that they are entering a pre-existing scene; joining an organization with its own mission, history, structure, rules, and culture; integrating with a group that has its own established dynamic; and engaging with individuals, each of whom has his or her own story and many of whom have been part of this scene in this organization for years on end or longer.

Too often they say the wrong things at the wrong times and they fail to ask a lot of the questions they should be asking. Heck, they often can’t even get to work on time. Anyway they spend half the workday on their devices instead of focusing on the work. That really comes through in customer service scores, along with other complaints about young front-line service personnel. Sometimes their lack of interpersonal skills leads to misunderstandings and even conflicts on the team.

Most of them seem to have one foot out the door from the day they arrive, all the while asking for more of something – or more of everything. Even the young superstars nowadays don’t seem to come in early, stay late, work through meals and weekends and holidays, bend over backward, and jump through hoops like the young superstars of yesteryear.

What is the “ur” conundrum of the soft skills gap? The promising new graduate with impressive freshly minted credentials —especially in-demand technical skills—who is nonetheless lacking in soft skills.

Of course, there are many young people with excellent soft skills. It’s just that there are not enough of them – it’s a supply and demand thing. That’s especially true among young people with in-demand technical skills, among whom there is a shortage to begin with. Over and over again we hear from leaders and managers at all levels that the soft skills gap is not going away. If anything it is getting worse. What are the soft skills that young people are missing nowadays that the grown-ups really miss the most? I’ve boiled them down to some key behaviors in three old-fashioned categories:
#1 Professionalism;
#2 Critical Thinking; and
#3 Followership.

This content originally appeared in our Just Thinking Newsletter.