The 5 most important soft skills, according to 100 employers

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The 5 most important soft skills, according to 100 employers

Nearly two-thirds of employers say new hires are not well-prepared to perform at a high level in a professional environment, according to a recent survey by Bloomberg Next and Workday.

To conduct the survey, researchers asked 200 senior-level individuals, evenly split between academia and business, about the preparedness of recent grads and what their organizations plan to do to close the skills gap.

Just 35% of employers said recent grads are well-prepared with both hard and soft skills, compared with 44% of academic respondents. Of the employers who said grads are not well-prepared, the largest group (34% of all employer respondents) pointed to a lack of soft skills as the primary reason. However, a significant number of employers (24%) said grads were more lacking in hard skills than soft skills, and 7% said recent grads lacked both hard and soft skills.

According to employers, the five most important soft skills are:

1. Teamwork skills (51%)

2. (tie) Analytical reasoning / critical thinking (46%)

2. (tie) Agility and adaptability (46%)

4. Decision-making (42%)

5. Complex problem-solving (38%)

Academic respondents identified similar skills as the most important soft skills. Their list of the top five is:

1. Teamwork skills (62%)

2. Analytical reasoning / critical thinking (57%)

3. Complex problem-solving (56%)

4. Agility and adaptability (41%)

5. Ethical judgment (39%)

Despite the fact that most employers and educators agreed grads needed extra training to be successful in the workforce, only about three in 10 employers and four in 10 educators say they’re collaborating to provide such training.

The report urges colleges and businesses to collaborate more to ensure grads are better prepared for the workforce. “I think we need to ask some questions of the business and academic communities,” says Dorian Warren, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and former professor at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, in a comment quoted in the report. “There is clearly a disconnect between the two groups. Are they talking past each other? Are they talking enough?”

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David Williams, a principal with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, made a similar suggestion. “Academia has every right to say they are turning out the smartest, best-educated students ever, but business clearly wants a different mix of skills,” he told the researchers. “I think the narrative really ought to be about collaboration.”

However, colleges are making more efforts to collaborate than businesses, the researchers found. Two-thirds of educators say they’re working with employers to establish education-to-work pipelines and to align their curriculum to in-demand skills. But just 38% of employers say they’re making similar efforts on their side.

However, certain myths about the job market are still too commonly believed by students and educators, says Diana Farrell, president and chief executive of the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

First, she says, education is a lifelong experience, not a one-time event. “You shouldn’t be reskilling because you lost your job. It should be about staying current in your job,” she argues.

And secondly, the mere fact of having a college degree is no longer enough to get a job and succeed, she argues. “I am personally concerned that we have communicated to the world that you just need a college degree, and your employment prospects will be fine. That’s not the case for everyone.” She adds that colleges should offer more training opportunities that don’t necessarily lead to a degree (Bloomberg Next report, accessed 8/13).

More than 2 million job postings require this skill. Do your students have it?

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