Sponsored Content
Sponsored Content
Why is there so little traction on our most critical skills?
By: Michelle Eppler, Ed.D., Associate Vice President, Human Capital Lab, Dean, College of Continuing & Professional Education, Bellevue University
Do a quick google search on “soft skills” and you’ll get millions of articles about the impor-tance of these skills. By now it’s safe to say that nearly every Learning and Development leader understands that soft skills are the key to workforce competitiveness and agility.

Agility is important because, with the pace of change in job requirements, those who know how to learn (i.e., listen, communicate, collabo-rate, think critically, etc.) will be the first to adapt to new ideas, skills, and jobs.

Nothing is as effective at creating workforce agility as soft skills. In fact, they’re so important, we call them Power Skills™. In a recent study of nearly 600 learning and development leaders we produced with Human Capital Media and Chief Learning Officer, it was clear that Power Skills are critical. Sixty-three percent of respon-dents said they have a substantial or critical gap in these skills – three times the number of technical or functional skills gaps. And for many organizations, the gap is widening.

At our organization, it’s almost taboo to even talk about soft skills, let alone measure them.”
— Survey Respondent “Making the Business Case for Soft Skills” August – September 2018
This was the sentiment of many of our survey respondents. While most organizations know Power Skills are important, comparatively few are taking steps to measure, train, and assess competencies…let alone build human capital strategies around gaps in these competencies.

In fact, the data show that most organizations lack reliable metrics to evaluate Power Skills mastery. Most reported they measure soft skills through self-evaluation, whether an item on a satisfaction rating or a section on an engage-ment survey. But reflect on this: Self-reporting would not be a satisfactory tool to use when assessing technical skills competencies. It’s hard to imagine any learning professional suggesting that they were going to hire a programmer because she reported she was “excellent” at JavaScript or Python.

Other responses included anecdotal evidence, including manager ratings, customer complaints, or other subjective evidence. See Figure 1.

Metrics used to track soft skills
The issue with competency assessments of Power Skills is that there has not been a reliable tool for assessing them. Until now.

Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab™ has been researching which soft skills are most important to creating workforce agility for more than eight years. The Lab worked with the University to integrate the introduction, practice, and mastery of these skills into academic curricula, and also stand-alone boot camps on each of the seven Power Skills.

Last year, responding to the needs addressed by our study, we created the Power Skills PRO™. In designing the Power Skills PRO we worked with proven testing assessment methodologies to understand how learners think about core concepts related to communication, collab-oration, self-management, decision-making, and the other Power Skills. The PRO presents learners with real-world situations and gauges their response to them. Still in its pilot phase, it is designed to test skills.

Where to Start
While it’s true that most respondents to our survey indicated a substantial or critical gap in soft skills, it is also true that most recognize they don’t adequately assess competency.

Starting with a reliable, objective assessment of competencies is a good place to start. It creates a benchmark you can use against which to eval-uate training programs in these critical skills.

The Power Skills PRO provides an immediate assessment of competency in each of the seven Power Skills for each individual taking it. Further, we have begun to work with teams to help them understand how they complement each other in various skills. This is an interest-ing analysis. For example, we have been able to uncover potential causes for workplace issues and/or lack of productivity.

In one example, we saw that the team manager was really excellent at all of the Power Skills except communication. His team did not appear to benefit from his skills in decision-making, values clarification, self-management, or collaboration. The reason became obvious with the team review of Power Skills abilities.

If your company or your team elects to use the Power Skills PRO to create a benchmark of your team’s proficiencies with these important skills, experts on the Power Skills from the Human Capital Lab work with you to interpret results and talk about next steps.

Another benefit of using the Power Skills PRO to assess Power Skills competencies is that you may identify team members who are very strong at many of these skills. While you may have recognized this potential intuitively, this is another tool for identifying skills. Or you may be surprised to learn that you have teams in your organization who are extremely talented in the Power Skills.

If you’d like to be part of the pilot of this groundbreaking tool, contact the Human Capital Lab.

Michelle Eppler
Dr. Michelle Eppler is a highly respected education professional who combines her expertise in effective learning with the leading-edge research conducted by Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab.
Human Capital Lab
Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab was founded to research and report credible links between learning interventions and enterprise impact. It was an innovative concept at the time, and since has added to its work through the production of new tools, case studies and research projects that demonstrate the impact that learning makes on employee lives, employee opportunity, and corporate outcomes like revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction.

Today, the Lab is known as the credible, inspirational resource about how to plan, engage, and enhance human capital. People are our most important source of productivity. The Lab is devoted to helping enterprises strategically deploy them for optimal employee engagement, productivity, and fulfillment.