'Softer elements' in play during hiring

By Helen Frances

Lean organisations require resilient and self-motivating talent who are able to roll with the punches.

People who can handle pressure and stress and still continue to make sensible decisions are attractive to employers. Photo / File
People who can handle pressure and stress and still continue to make sensible decisions are attractive to employers. Photo / File

It's the "softer elements" that give job candidates the edge, says Roman Rogers, Hudson New Zealand's executive general manager.

"We are seeing that play out a lot more in the way organisations go about hiring people; in fact some are now using those softer elements as the screening piece," Rogers says.

Softer elements include the ability to adapt to change, manage stress and self-motivate. Self-awareness and the capacity to learn from experience are also crucial.

"When we consider the restructuring that's going on; how people get product from point A to B ... the impact the digital world is having on how we promote organisations, and the messaging we take to market. There are a lot of moving parts within organisations and the people who understand that and are prepared to operate in this changing world as opposed to hanging on to the past are really desirable."

He says organisations trying new things inevitably make mistakes, so staff who throw their arms in the air and say, "Why do we have to do it?" or say they will, then carry on as usual, are being counter-productive.

People who realise that making mistakes and learning from them is part of today's work environment have the flexible attitude employers need today.

"A lot of organisations are building their plane as they fly it. Things will go wrong so people that have that bounce-back-ability are critical."

Stress resilience is another key attribute, primarily because organisations are a lot leaner in 2013 and the workload expected of individuals across the board is higher.

"People who can handle that pressure and stress can still continue to make sensible decisions when things go wrong."

And he says people with ideas must learn how to tactfully start conversations, seed the ideas and know which battles to pick. Communication and relationship skills are always important.

In some sectors, such as technology, change is the nature of the industry.

People operating in that space have to be "very agile", continuously learning, keeping up with new developments and meeting project deadlines. Being able to work and manage staff remotely are skills that these types of industries are also looking for.

Sandra Johnston, a manager at Vitae, workplace wellness services, says as work places continue to restructure, people need self-confidence and a very broad base of skills.

"Some of the people whose jobs seem to be more secure are those who are able to change and adapt."

This kind of resilience is a skill learned over time through experience and self-evaluation.

"Resilience is about going through something and coming out the other side having learned from whatever it is."

She is a firm believer in a Toastmaster's adage, which talks about CRC - "that can of Kiwi fix-it-all."

Her psychological CRC starts with, "What have I done well today?" She then recommends having a look at what hasn't. "What have I learned and what wouldn't I do next time; what are the things I need to learn?" then closing off the day with the things that went well.

"I think if people learn self-evaluation and see it as a growth tool, that develops resilience. It's also knowing where you can get support among friends and family and having appropriate support with qualified people."

Johnston says change is rapid, whereas transition is slow. Change can come out of left field with a hiss and a roar, and even when people know it is coming she says their ability to transition into hope can be a much longer, slower process.

"If people have hope, it gets them through some pretty dark places."

She cites the example of a client who had been made redundant for the third time. The client believed it was her own fault, despite the fact that the company relied on overseas markets, which had disappeared.

A career practitioner helped the client look at how she could use her skill set in other ways and Johnston supported her psychologically, reinforcing her sense of self-worth, while the client worked out what she needed and wanted, and how she would get there.

"Having been in a fairly high-powered sector all her career, this woman then went down a path she believed she never would. She went to work in the not-for-profit sector and has found a whole, different meaning to life in the social justice area."

Johnston says self-awareness is crucial.

"If people are not self-aware they don't know what to change. If you're not sure, give people you know - family or friends - permission to give you truthful, constructive feedback - along with suggestions about how they might change behaviour."

Organisations realise that there is no such thing as a job for life, says Rogers, and they are also starting to recognise that the perfect candidate is not on every street corner. While people work for many different organisations throughout their career, he says it is important to demonstrate what they have achieved in the positions, both for the company and for themselves.

Work stories will illustrate their personal attributes and experience.

"Good work stories that suggest they have dealt with stress, that they have been resilient, that they have worked in an ever-changing environment and that they can roll with the punches and understand the need for that."

Every business has its own culture and soft skill requirements. Hudson has identified a set of behavioural traits and attributes which are likely to make an employee successful within their company environment.

"Many organisations don't articulate well enough what they're looking for," Rogers says.

"It's important that organisations are self-aware - of what they are looking for, what constitutes success, and that they recruit around that. And it's important that individuals know what they are good at and what they are not and be able to call upon examples of being successful to match what the [organisation] is looking for."

- NZ Herald

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