When you hire someone for your entry-level position, you expect to provide training on tasks the job requires. However, many employers often overlook teaching soft skills when they hire someone who is just entering the workforce. Teens and college students may know how to use a computer, provide correct change and stock shelves, but not understand the basics of professional communication and collaboration.
The problem isn’t just with teens. A recent survey found 44 percent of executives said soft skills are the biggest gap they see in the U.S. workforce. They might be the most important skills for new hires to learn, since 67 percent of HR managers said they’d hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if they were missing abilities in some other areas.
Recognize We’re Not Born With Soft Skills
To some people, soft skills seem like just common sense and good manners. But if you think back, you may remember when you started forming the foundation for things like good communication or respect for authority. Soft skills are taught, and some new hires just entering the workforce need a crash course.
Take, for example, something as simple as answering the phone. Teens and college students seem to be constantly on their cell, but they get confused when they have to answer a landline and talk to strangers, something common in corporate America. Employers wonder why they say hello, look puzzled, then turn to someone else for help.
If that seems strange, think back to when you were young. Most likely someone coached you on answering the phone and taking a message. They explained the rules and supplied phrasing.
You were to say something like, “My mom isn’t available right now, may I take a message?” Or, if mom said she’d be there in a minute, you were expected to make polite small talk until she was ready to take the call. From an early age, you became comfortable answering the phone in an unknown situation.
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if you were born years after caller ID became the norm, and when everyone answers their own cell phone or lets it go to voicemail? The teenagers and college students just coming to work at your business may have rarely answered a landline, and they haven’t yet developed solid communication and problem-solving skills.
Understand Where They’re Coming From
You didn’t hire them to raise them, but you need reliable, dependable employees and they have skills. Look through their eyes for a minute to gain perspective and develop patience.
If it’s their first job, and before now, the adults in their life have been teachers and family members. They asked questions like, “What are your favorite subjects in school?” “What sports do you play?” “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” “What do you think you’ll study in college?” Until now, conversations with people other than their peers have been primarily about them.
Also, a huge percentage of the information they receive is electronic, so they haven’t had to develop listening skills the same way as previous generations. If you try to give verbal directions to reach a destination, they don’t have the patience for it.
They briefly skim emails and text messages knowing if they need to use the information, they can go back to it later. So when a customer at your business wants to voice a complaint or explain what they need, new hires might not have had enough practice really listening to be able to respond appropriately.
Teach Skills Explicitly
You offer training that takes new hires step by step through operating the cash register, restocking merchandise or closing the restaurant. You might even have checklists that break down your expectations. Take the same approach to teach soft skills.
In addition to spelling out how to answer the phone, take a message and relay that to the appropriate party, teach new hires other basics of verbal communication. Give them examples of when to ask for help, how to ask for clarification and how to persist in communication until a problem is solved.
The Importance of Eye Contact
If your new hire doesn’t look people in the eye when talking to them, it comes across as either rude or shy, but he or she may not understand it’s a big deal. Explain and rehearse making eye contact when greeting customers, talking to co-workers and approaching administrators.
Flexibility and Teamwork
Give examples of how your new hire might be asked to adapt to changes in scheduling or duties and supply your expectations. Define what it means to be proactive and work toward the good of the team. For example, if the employee sees a spill on the floor and it’s not his or her job to take care of it, he or she is still expected to take action instead of leaving it for someone to slip on.
You also may need to train employees on conflict resolution. At work, they can’t just block or unfriend someone who disagrees with them. Explain what it means to have a reasonable discussion in a proper tone, whether it’s with a co-worker or someone higher up.
If your new hire has been shielded from some things in life, they might not yet have developed the ability to handle hard things. Teach employees to troubleshoot instead of giving up.
At your business, you probably have certain types of situations that come up regularly. During training, give new hires a series of steps they can follow to use as a framework. Then offer them a new problem and ask them how they would solve it using the same principles.
Employers complain about younger workers who miss deadlines, show up late and gripe about their duties, yet expect promotions and raises. Let new hires know at your business, the people who move forward aren’t the ones who just meet basic requirements. Your expectation is that they strive to do their best work, to go above and beyond.
They may not recognize the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from giving more than they thought they could. Instead of assuming younger workers are just lazy and sloppy, set clear expectations and provide the training they need for success.
Find Qualified New Hires
Brelsford Personnel has an extensive screening and selection process, so we supply knowledgeable, productive employees that already have the skills your business needs. Skip the hassle and headache that goes with finding the right candidates when you contact us to find out more.