Soft Skills 101 is a six-part series looking at the emergence of soft skills as an essential requirement of any job. In Part 6, we look at how an international corporation used soft skills within employees to drive innovation.

As technology, globalisation and demographic shifts continue to shape how businesses compete, the importance of soft skills will grow.

Organisations are using soft skill-trained employees to better their business.

But what value do these soft skilled employees provide?

How are soft skills in employees measured?

Global energy provider Royal Dutch Shell values the soft skills within its employees.

The company has always considered it important for workers and stakeholders to come to agreements through mutual consensus.

Recently it realised that consensus didn’t always lead to the best decisions.

So the company began encouraging dissenting voices.

As a result, Shell now looks for candidates who can challenge the status quo — in an appropriate and effective manner — and who can help the company drive innovation.

Debbie Foley, Head of Global Marketing for Employer Brand and Talent Attraction at Shell, says the company values interpersonal skills and believes that soft skills contribute to the exceptional internal mobility of its employees.

With operations in more than 70 nations and customers that span across markets and industries, employees lean on a range of soft skills to successfully navigate this sprawling multinational.

“As a global organisation, we rely on employees to work with people from different countries and cultures, often remotely,” says Foley.

“Good communication skills are thus vital to our success.”

Other interpersonal skills, such as relationship-building contribute to the exceptional internal mobility of its employees, she says.

“Most employees within Shell are changing roles every four years or less,” Foley says.

“The ability to rapidly build and maintain relationships across teams, disciplines and countries is so important — not just to drive productivity, but to help employees identify their next opportunity.”

Gauging soft skill levels in employees

While soft skills are vital to the success of a business, it’s not always an easy road to figure out how best to measure the soft skills of an employee.

Adam Shapley, Managing Director of Hays Information Technology told Information Age soft skills are intangible and can be difficult to measure and assess – it “isn’t a simple calculation”.

“The way you would approach [this] would differ significantly based on the position, organisation and industry,” Shapley says. “What we can say is that in our 2019-20 Hays Salary Guide, almost one-third (31 per cent) of employers said soft skills have the highest impact on the effectiveness of their organisation.”

Shapley believes a good of example of soft skills engagement is to carry out an anonymous survey to internal and external customers.

“It could look at soft skills such as problem solving, communication, collaboration, time management and stakeholder engagement by measuring metrics such as output, customer satisfaction, quality, client retention rate, and speed of response to customer enquiries,” he says.

“The ability to deliver projects successfully with people from other departments is another way you can measure the soft skills of your team.”

No one way to measure and assess soft skills

Organisations like Shell approaches soft skills measurement in a variety of ways.

This includes using multiple assessors to reduce the potential for bias.

Every test a candidate takes is reviewed by two trained Shell assessors (not necessarily hiring managers or recruiters), increasing the rigor of the assessment process.

Foley says this exacting and well-rounded approach also leads to a better candidate experience, even if the person is not ultimately hired.

The emphasis on soft skills makes the process feel more human and allows candidates to feel confident that the reviewers are being thorough.

“We’re always looking at ways to improve,” Foley says. “We also keep up-to-date with the use of new assessment techniques, like games-based assessments and the use of artificial intelligence to help identify outstanding candidates.

“But we only implement a new assessment method when we’re satisfied, through our own rigorous research, that it’s right for Shell.”

Deloitte believes credentialing offers another way for employees to demonstrate their attainment of soft skills that can be used to measure the impact of training.

Providing employees with certified training in a controlled environment will benefit businesses in two-ways:

  1. Recruitment processes can be made more efficient as credentials allow recruiters to pre-screen potential candidates for desired soft skills. Just as technical qualifications signal the technical expertise of a candidate, soft skill credentials provide employers with a standard measure of attainment across cohorts.
  2. More targeted recruitment for soft-skilled candidates can allow businesses to make savings in training and developing their workforce.

Whatever path an organisation takes to measure and assess soft skills, Shapley says businesses must be able to do something with that information.

“Any organisation that takes steps to measure their staff against certain metrics must also be prepared to then offer training and development opportunities if people are found to be falling short of expectations in one or more areas,” he says.

If your team is interested in soft skills training to suit your organisation, you can register your interest here.

Previously published:

Part 5: Workers demand soft skills training

Part 4: The value of being human in a technical world

Part 3: Soft skills will dominate all jobs by 2030

Part 2: Understanding the must-have soft skills

Part 1: Soft skills 101: The essential non-technical skills you need