April 13, 2024

Advancing Corporate Yields

Pioneering Business Success

5 Invaluable Soft Skills to Seek in Your Next Hire

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A reporter once asked professional development guru Dale Carnegie how he was able to pull off hiring 43 millionaires. Carnegie responded that those people were not millionaires when they were hired. Rather, he had identified their potential and cultivated them into the successes they ultimately became. Carnegie, whose leadership insight was clearly ahead of its time, added, “Men are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mine looking for dirt. You go in looking for the gold.”

The trick for business leadership and hiring managers is knowing what great potential looks like. And in all likeliness, you can’t glean that from a resume, as the promise of an employee’s greatness isn’t necessarily evident from their current skill set or perhaps even their past jobs. Sure, experience and hard skills are important, but there are more powerful indicators of long-term success — gold, if you will — that are far better telltales of an employee’s ability to flourish.

The interesting thing here is that employees often aren’t even conscious of their capacity for growth. While it is surely in one’s best interest to have self-awareness related to one’s natural talents and deficits, the onus is on leadership to recognize the potential for greatness within their employees. But often, those who should know best simply miss the ball when assessing and nurturing talent.

Many people, particularly those new to management, focus too heavily on identifying weaknesses and overcoming deficits in their employees. This is the dirt that Carnegie was referring to. Regardless of how successful we are, everyone (and I do mean everyone) possesses at least some challenges and shortcomings. We also all have certain behavioral profiles that work wonderfully in certain situations and not so great in others.

As managers grow into true and effective leaders, they recognize that focusing on employees’ faults rather than their potential is a losing game for everyone. For instance, a performance improvement plan (PIP) aims to address an employee’s deficits rather than how to leverage their talents better. True or not, many workers feel that PIPs simply document their failures as a precursor to being let go. So, while PIPs are ostensibly designed to foster progress and growth, they often have the opposite effect due to their focus on the dirt. While the stats don’t currently seem to exist, it would be interesting to learn what percentage of PIP recipients ever move on to advanced positions within that organization. I imagine it is astonishingly few.

More evolved and successful managers instead work purposefully to find and foster the strengths in each member of their team. Their job is to identify that gold in each individual and put them in positions where they can maximize their strengths for the betterment of themselves and the company.

I know, I know. Your pushback is, “What if the employee is actually untalented or unredeemable in some way?” That reflects as much on the hiring process and HR management as it does on the employee in question. If a business finds itself making lousy hires after bad hires, the process is broken or is ironically due to talent deficits within the hiring manager. Somewhere along the line, the wrong attributes are being favored instead of the right stuff.

Related: High Performers and High-Potential Employees Are Not One in the Same

The following are a few soft skills worth their weight in gold that you should look for in your next great hire.

1. Adaptability and resiliency

An employee’s ability to adapt is an exceptionally valuable characteristic and a strong indicator of long-term success. Adaptability means that an employee is not only quick on their feet, but also reflects an innovative, agile and agreeable spirit. Resiliency is reflected in their capacity to bounce back from misfires and overcome obstacles.

2. Communication

Verbal aptitude, writing ability and listening skills are invaluable talents that you should look for in every employee, regardless of their pay grade. Your entire team’s ability to express themselves to others ultimately leads to better connection, improved collaboration and a more compelling company culture.

Related: How to Delegate Effectively Without Ruining Your Team

3. Creativity

Creative thinkers are natural innovators. They not only offer fresh ideas and approaches but also inspire others to do the same. Creative thinkers tend to be your best problem solvers and are catalysts for organizational improvement and growth.

4. Leadership potential

While leaders can certainly be developed, natural leaders possess some key traits long before they ever climb the corporate ladder. Those best positioned for future leadership roles are wired to inspire those around them, demonstrate initiative and take ownership of their decisions regardless of their current title.

Related: Feel Like an Imposter? Practice These 5 Habits to Beat Your Imposter Syndrome

5. Continuous learning

A hungry mind is a tremendous asset and a clear indicator of a growth mindset. An employee’s drive to attain new knowledge reflects an incredible array of transferable skills, including increased capacities in problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and innovation. So, keep a keen eye out in your hiring process for job candidates with curious minds.

As you begin to focus on the right skills in your hiring and employee development initiatives, you and your entire organization will surely be rewarded with all the riches you deserve.