Wanted: Behavioral Skills for Tech Roles

By Noor Khan

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While Tech Jobs Remain in High Demand, Behavioral Skills Play Just as Important a Role as Hard Skills


Tech jobs are some of the most in-demand jobs in the world right now, but prospective candidates won't be able to get by on raw technical abilities alone.

Contrary to popular belief, a top job in tech no longer looks like a solitary coder sitting in front of a computer screen. Instead, it's someone who knows programming languages, can access big data and has the skills to collaborate with a diverse team of developers, marketers, and salespeople.

According to West Monroe Partners Research Report, a lack of behavioral skills holds some tech professionals back from getting jobs or advancing in their workplace. With jobs changing as fast as every six months, one thing remains constant, the behavioral skills needed to succeed in a role. This is especially true as hard skills often have a shorter lifespan than behavioral skills. Programming languages come and go, but great communicators and problem solvers who can think creatively are always in demand.

LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends Report revealed that 92% of TA professionals thought behavioral skills were "equally or more important" to hire for than hard skills. 89% of those same talent professionals admitted that when new hires don't work out, it's typically a behavioral skills issue versus a hard skill one.


The Demand for Behavioral Skills 

There is a lot of research that supports it is no longer enough to hire candidates based only on hard skills. According to LinkedIn, the demand for higher cognitive, social, and emotional skills is rising and needed to succeed in nearly every role. Companies now need to hire talent with the right mix of soft and hard skills to drive new business models forward.  

According to the World Economic Forum, there is a massive deficit of social and emotional capabilities in today’s workforce. There is an urgent need for humans who have the behavioral skills to close the current workforce gap and for individuals and organizations to survive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The crux of the argument is that in addition to adapting to technological change, humans need to cultivate the capabilities that will enable us to add value where machines fall short.  

A recent survey of more than 250 technical leaders cited the biggest reason for project failure as a lack of behavioral skills. 43% of employees said that behavioral skill challenges created problems in their work with IT. Collaboration issues were also responsible for delaying projects for 71% of those surveyed. The most common reason these issues arise is verbal miscommunication (cited by 62 percent), poor teamwork (44 percent) and written miscommunication (38 percent).    

Communication barriers can silo  groups and stifle productivity. Having the right combination of behavioral skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork are critical to delivering business value and adapting hard skills as workforce needs change.  


Which Skills Matter in Tech Roles? 

An internal team of researchers at Google launched Project Oxygen to determine what makes a great manager. From this research, they identified the key behaviors that are common among their top employees. Technical skills such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics expertise were among the last while key behavioral skills were ranked higher:  

  1. Is a good coach 
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage  
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being 
  4. Is productive and results-oriented 
  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information  
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance 
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team 
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team  
  9. Collaborates across Google 
  10. Is a strong decision-maker 

Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook reported the top skills employers are looking for are dependability, teamwork/collaboration, flexibility and problem-solving. Verbal communication and collaboration were also noted to be essential behavioral skills for tech job candidates.  

Hard skills can be learned, but behavioral skills are inherent within people, and matching the right people to the right roles can save HR a lot of time having to re-fill roles and re-train people. When people are in roles that drive them and use their natural talents, they feel fulfilled, are happier, and likely stay in a role longer.  


How to Hire for Behavioral Skills  

Finding the right talent with the right technical capabilities can be challenging on its own, especially as organizational goals change and evolve. The key to building a resilient and agile workforce is having the right people in the right roles. To do so, employers need to move away from the rigid job description of the past and hire people based on their true potential.  

We know behavioral skills can be hard to assess, and technology jobs aren't easy to fill. 61 percentof HR leaders say technology roles are either somewhat or extremely more challenging to hire for than other positions.   

In a market where qualified candidates are in short supply, adding behavioral skills into the mix may be seen to only add more difficulty to the process. HR professionals say technology roles are harder to fill because candidates lack strong behavioral skills (43 percent) vs. those who cite "not enough qualified applicants" (39 percent).   

Part of the reason why hiring for behavioral skills is difficult is that most organizations don't have a way of quantifying and assessing the behavioral skills a candidate possesses. It's easier to track hard skills – i.e., someone having experience with JavaScript or have built single page web applications – than it is to track behavioral skills, i.e., whether someone is innovative or a good communicator.   

This is where Plum can help. Rooted in decades of proven I/O Psychology, Plum’s talent resilience platform gives organizations the human potential data to understand who their candidates are, the behavioral skills they possess, and the skills required to succeed in a role. Plum’s single behavioral assessment reveals people's Talents by measuring personality, social intelligence and problem-solving ability. Talents are recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior, often referred to as "behavioral skills," they represent our innate abilities and how we are hardwired as humans.  

Plum also gives HR teams and hiring managers the tools to quantify job fit by identifying the behavioral requirements needed to succeed in any particular role by completing a simple 8-minute job analysis survey. So, they can find the best match candidates who has the right set of behavioral skills to thrive in a particular role. 

While job titles, past experience and education merely show what a person has done in the past, Talents can predict what someone is capable of achieving in the future if given the opportunity. Not to mention they are 4X more predictive of future job success than what you'll find on a resume. 

Book a chat with us today to see how we can help you understand who your candidates are and match them to roles where they'll thrive.