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Soft skills, mad skills, hard skills… How to manage the diversification of type of skills?

8 min.

type of skills

If there is one aspect of the organization of companies that has changed significantly over the last 20 years, it is the management of skills. Soft skills, mad skills, hard skills, adjacent skills and professional aspirations: now identified and popularized, these type of skills shed light on the profiles of candidates and employees as much as they complicate the work of managers. This is why it has become highly strategic for organizations to structure their talent management processes.

Employability and type of skills: towards transformation and beyond 

First of all, a bit of background: in recent years, we have seen the emergence of the notion of employability and empowerment in relation to skills development. The advent of the Personal Training Account (PTA) is emblematic of this evolution: the training system is increasingly aimed at the employee, who is now invited to take control of his or her training throughout his or her life. Employability is no longer the sole responsibility of the employer. Training organizations are increasingly turning to employees, who are encouraged to think for themselves about the skills they will need in the future, in their current job or in their future career.

Second, the pace of change and skill renewal has accelerated. We have entered a lifelong learning economy. The main reason? Digital transformation of organizations. “The digital shift is not recent, but its effects continue to be felt with the evolution of jobs and skills. When the management of a hotel goes digital, it is the whole team that has to be trained to use them“, explains Olga Renda-Blanche, Chief Human Resources Officer at AccorInvest to HR Talk. 

So, what are these different type of skills? And what impact do they have on the management and recruitment methods of Professional Services Organizations? Here’s an overview.

Hard skills

Hard skills are technical skills, concretely identifiable and specific to each profession. These skills are acquired during school, professional or academic training and are developed throughout a career. Until recently, these “hard skills” were the main skills evaluated by recruiters in job interviews, and those most valued on the CV.

Some examples of hard skills: mastering cloud technologies, auditing and consulting, team management, sales techniques, social media development…

Soft skills

With soft skills, it is more a question of demonstrating a “savoir-ĂŞtre”: character traits, behavior in a group, ability to learn, flexibility, creativity or critical spirit… They demonstrate the ability of a person to integrate into the company and to promote collective evolution. Among all the soft skills, the queen is emotional intelligence, i.e. understanding emotions, in oneself and in others. It allows us to know ourselves better, to better understand those around us, to better manage human relationships, to make more lucid and better informed decisions. They can make all the difference in the functioning of a team, the management of a project or the quality of a service.

Some examples of soft skills: curiosity, autonomy, active listening, oral communication, flexibility, adaptability…

Mad skills

Mad skills”, also known as “leisure skills”, are abilities considered exceptional by recruiters. They are often deduced from the practice of a sport, a creative activity, a trip, an atypical lifestyle… These are qualities that sometimes seem a little hidden but considered to have a high added value once they are applied in the work environment. All the more so when they reinforce soft skills such as the ability to get out of the box, to welcome change or to remain versatile. 

Some examples of mad skills: active volunteering for an association, playing an instrument, theatrical improvisation, a long trip to several countries, a large number of subscribers on social networks…

Adjacent skills

Adjacent skills” are the technical skills – hard skills – acquired and transferable to another job. They are often not mentioned as mandatory in job descriptions. On the other hand, employees who develop them broaden their expertise. Moreover, new recruitment practices are increasingly focused on the skills required for a particular role, rather than on mastering the job itself. From a recruiter’s perspective, this is a real gamble. It is a question of betting on candidates who, although they do not have the required experience or the defined profile, should be able to quickly meet the expectations of the position. 

A few examples of adjacent skills: jobs such as receptionists have skills that are quite similar to those of salespeople, which would predispose them to easily integrate into these jobs.

Career aspirations

They could be confused with professional goals, but they are not quite the same thing. While professional goals apply to your current missions, in a precise and punctual manner, aspirations correspond to your vision of the future. They represent what you hope to achieve in your professional life in the years to come. In short, it is a long-term project that can even be accompanied by a training plan over several years. 

Some examples of professional aspirations: to participate in a humanitarian struggle, to contribute to a collective action in a significant way, to take pride in one’s career, to leave one’s mark in an artistic field…

How the diversity of skills impacts service companies 

For service companies, the diversity and massification of skills is a real strength. Indeed, it allows to identify precisely the right employees and to assign them to the right missions. However, it also makes resource management much more complex. As a result, more and more companies are moving from a “job based organization” to a “skills based organization”. For example, a recent study examined job postings from several companies for a software quality assurance engineer. It found that only 26% of Accenture’s job postings for this position had a degree requirement. 29% at IBM. More broadly, 50% of IBM’s U.S. job openings do not require a four-year degree, according to Nickle LaMoreaux, the company’s director of human resources. 

In addition, the HR and managerial skills required to meet these new challenges are also changing. Today, multiple skills are required of talent management experts, including both business expertise and soft skills, such as change management and leadership development. Hence the importance of having the right tools to create the perfect match between employees and assignments.

Whoz: a SaaS platform that simplifies the management and exploitation of type of skills

And you are not reading this article by chance! Whoz is the SaaS platform for talent deployment based on a skills-based approach. This is our strong point. An approach reinforced by the development of a sophisticated skills ontology to be able to use all these type of skills. 

  • Result: benefits for the organization AND for the talent through 4 key steps: 
  • Recruitment: it becomes easier and faster to recruit the right skills for the right missions
  • Assignment: faster and more accurate talent assignment
  • Development: accurate detection of skill gaps allows for better training of employees to meet demand.
  • Retention: trained talent is fulfilled talent. The work experience is enriched. Result: turnover decreases and the employability of each talent is improved.

The organization is better able to overcome periods of talent shortage and respond to skills obsolescence. Projects that used to cost thousands of hours, and sometimes millions of dollars, can now be deployed quickly and on a large scale.

It can also be said that the skills-based approach promotes the Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) process. Recruitment and assignment on missions is no longer based solely on skills. This improves equity and diversity of talent to fuel a virtuous circle.

The future belongs to those who master skills management 

To conclude, we have entered the era of skills management, not human resources management. An employee or candidate today represents a spectrum of skills rather than a propensity to perform a single job. And the jobs themselves are built and transformed according to the skills available internally. In short, everything evolves and changes. And it is the organizations capable of anticipating needs, clearly identifying available skills and quickly assigning them to missions, without downtime, that will represent the powerful companies of tomorrow. 

Some key figures

  • Soft skills will represent on average 32% of the skills development plan in 2022
  • More than one in two recruiters believe that soft skills will become more important than hard skills in the coming years
  • 83% of HR managers want to strengthen the evaluation of soft skills in 2022
  • 3/4 of HR professionals consider soft skills to be decisive for individual and collective performance
  • Nearly 1 in 2 employees were in the process of changing jobs or were considering doing so in 2022

*Source : Parlons RH