Thanks to Bruce, a management revolution has taken place at Joe’s Crab Shack.
Ray Blanchette, President and CEO, Au Bon Pain; President and CEO, Joe's Crab Shack (2007-2015)

Why Does the Soft Skills Gap Evade Solutions?

Why does the soft skills gap evade solutions?

There are three reasons:

First, you cannot hire your way around the soft skills gap, at least not entirely. If you are hiring for a low-supply high-demand technical-skill job, you probably won’t be able to select out all those with weak soft skills. If you are hiring for non-technical jobs, then soft skills are among the only criteria, making the demand for those with strong soft skills very high, despite the low supply.

Second, soft skills cannot be spoon fed to young people or forced upon them. Soft skills are all about the regulation of the self. They must be fully embraced in order to be learned. You have to get Gen Zers to care enough about soft skills that their self-building drive is turned on and focused on mastering the missing soft skills.

Third, you probably don’t have a bunch of extra time or resources to pull your Gen Zers out of work and send them for soft skills training; or create your own Boot Camp (like the Marines) to break down new workers and systematically rebuild them. If you are like most managers, then you deal with soft skill gap issues when they arise – when an employee is late, or inappropriate, or makes an error in judgment, or there are conflicts on the team, or there is a bad customer service interaction. You deal with the problem. Maybe you note the issue. Maybe if it is a recurring ongoing issue with an employee, you really drill down and try to deal with the problem. In any case, unless you are the rare exception, your approach to dealing with the soft-skills gap is pretty much ad hoc, hit or miss.

In our training seminars, when I start talking about these difficult realities, managers start nodding their heads and listening carefully. I often say, “I don’t have any easy answers because easy answers work only in fantasyland. What I do have is a lot of difficult partial solutions.” That’s when managers in the real world know that I really have something to offer them. All I do in my seminars is teach managers how to imitate the best practices of the most effective managers are doing successfully every single day. How are the most effective managers bridging the soft-skills gap every day?

Here’s the number one thing they have in common: They recognize the incredible power of soft skills – in themselves and in others and in organizations and teams. They understand what can go wrong when individuals or teams or organizations have big gaps in their soft skills. Even more important, they understand how much can go so incredibly right — the extraordinary potential for added value – as a result of unlocking the power of soft skills.

This content originally appeared in our Just Thinking Newsletter.