Why are soft skills becoming so important in tech recruitment? — Talent Works International

A recent survey we conducted showed that 64% of tech leaders in the UK and 79% in the US feel candidates who apply to their organisation are missing the necessary soft skills to succeed. Of course, you could argue that it is challenging to prove you have soft skills when applying for a job (who wouldn’t write that they’re good at communicating on their resume?). However, it’s undeniable that in the world of tech recruitment, it’s easy to get caught up in technical ability and knowledge without focusing on soft, transferrable skills.

Previously STEM skills and knowledge were all it took to land the role; no one cared about your project management, creativity, and social skills as long as you could write CSS script or effectively interpret large amounts of data. Specialist skillsets have set technical talent apart for a long time. But, as technology advances and the world of work changes, we’re seeing a huge shift, and demand for soft skills in tech hiring is on the rise. While these skills have always been essential to those dealing with the public or clients, it’s now apparent that they’re just as important behind the scenes of a tech business.

According to a 2018 McKinsey Global Institute report, demand for soft skills in the US is expected to increase by 26% between 2016 and 2030. As tech businesses become more reliant on AI, automation, advanced analytics and robotics to carry out technical tasks, tech roles are changing. Companies are deploying technologies to become more efficient, and therefore the duties of those working in the industry are changing.

From communication and teamwork to adaptability, creativity, and attitude, soft skills have never been industry-specific, but their place in STEM industries is becoming clear now more than ever. These skills aren’t always emphasised in resumes or professional development goals as much as technical capabilities, but as the world of work changes dramatically, they’re becoming even more pivotal to success.

So why are soft skills so essential in tech recruitment for scaling businesses?

There are a limited number of employees

In scaling tech businesses especially, when your team may be limited to a small number of people, these interpersonal and human qualities will be what drive your company forwards. You simply don’t have the capacity to hire people to manage projects or communicate with the wider team and technical talent. Therefore, your developers, dev-ops engineers and data scientists will have to step up to the plate. Most people that opt to join a scaling business accept that they’ll have to wear many hats, so technical talent should be under no illusion that there’ll be more of a requirement for them to manage projects, report results and suggest areas for improvement.

Tech employees can take on leadership roles

Our reliance on technology isn’t going away any time soon. As many businesses are now digitally native or have recently undergone significant digital transformation, there’s a growing dependence on technical talent in leadership roles. A scaling tech business will struggle to succeed without specialised knowledge on the leadership team; otherwise, how will you grow your project and offering? Whereas previously, IT professionals, data analysts and other technical talent were called upon to share expertise when needed; this knowledge is fundamental to the success of a business. As more decisions become based on tech, surely it makes sense to have decision-makers who understand. In the future, we’ll likely be seeing far more leaders with tech skills if we aren’t already. They know what’s required, the technologies used and new advancements that can grow the business. Therefore if your tech employees already have soft skills and can manage projects, present ideas and think outside of the box, they could become the leaders of tomorrow and help your business grow.

Companies can become more innovative

Other soft skills currently in demand among tech talent are thinking creatively, innovating, and questioning established practices. If tech talent has these skills and abilities and can practice them, tech products and services could advance hugely. By hiring individuals with tech skills and the ability to think creatively, you could be unstoppable. Think about it. If the ideas people within your business don’t have the technical knowledge to back it up, many ideas will likely be impossible or incredibly difficult to do. But with the proper knowledge to support these ideas and a hunger to push the boundaries, tech talent could help you to innovate in new ways.

Projects become more efficient

Communication between teams is vital for projects to become a success. Technology is becoming a more significant part of many projects; your technical talent will be even more involved. Now more than ever, IT pros must work alongside leadership and other teams to meet goals while also investing time and energy refining their skillset. If they can’t communicate and collaborate with others, your projects will be slower and more challenging. Instead, it would help if you involved developers, engineers or data scientists in relevant projects from the beginning. This means they can have an input in the ideas, ensuring deliverables are actually possible, but they can also report back on progress and give regular updates. With project management and communication skills across your organisation, there’s more chance of meeting deadlines and streamlining tasks.

New Era of Tech Candidates

As the world of work changes, more and more candidates are adopting technical skills. With entire industries shutting down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many workers were forced to rethink their careers and reskill, which meant embracing digital and tech capabilities. Whereas traditionally, the best tech talent went to top universities, providing them with unrivalled knowledge and skills, there are now people coming through who have vast work experience and less technical knowledge. These individuals could be self-taught or could have gone through less traditional education but what’s important is they have real work experience. They’ll have soft skills in abundance because they’ve been using them for years in industries like customer service. With this new wave of candidates coming onto the market and the tech recruitment landscape becoming ever more competitive, it’s becoming harder to ignore these soft skills. Prioritising soft skills could have positive implications on your business, as let’s face it, it’s easier to learn python than to become an organised person. And, when demand for tech talent is so high, looking for these skills rather than in-depth technical knowledge could give you a competitive advantage.

While skills and tech knowledge are crucial considerations when hiring for your scaling tech business, interpersonal skills and characteristics that cannot be taught are becoming more and more important. As the technology we use becomes more capable and reliable, humans will be expected to oversee technologies and take on new responsibilities that machines can’t handle. Duties like reporting and communicating results, collaborating with other teams, thinking of new innovations, and managing projects will demand a whole new set of skills on top of technical capabilities.

Originally published at https://www.talent-works.com on June 29, 2021.

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