I enjoy the warm feeling of good customer service. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what made the difference between a good and bad experience – especially when the coffee was just the same.
My point is that most jobs, whether customer facing or not, require a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are the technical aspects of getting the job done – making the cup of coffee, delivering the parcel or getting the broadband connection to work. By their nature, hard skills are relatively easy to identify and measure.
Soft skills, by contrast, are more challenging to identify and measure since they normally revolve around behaviours. Yet soft skills can make such a difference to outcomes; the dental receptionist who puts you at ease, rather than simply processing you; the call centre operator who actually listens to what you are saying; the boss who takes the trouble to develop and coach her or his staff.
Smart organisations value these behaviours because they know that soft skills play an important role in achieving long term goals. These behaviours can be described as competencies, which can be role-specific or generic within an organisation.
Examples of frequently identified competencies include:
- communication skills
- people management
- team skills
- customer service skills
For competencies to be of value they need to be relevant, understandable and, importantly, measurable.
For smaller organisations, particularly, it can be hard knowing where to start. How do you identify competencies, how do you measure individuals against them and how do you make use of the information?
- some excellent competency frameworks exist, so there is no need to start from scratch; instead, the focus can be on identifying the 8-10 most relevant competencies
- measuring individuals against the chosen competencies can be achieved using tools such as 16PF, which is mapped to a proven competency framework
- training and development needs can then be identified to align individual behaviours with the needs of the business
Understanding and encouraging the behaviours which lead to business success would seem to be a no-brainer, yet many organisations bury their heads in the sand and deny themselves the competitive advantage this can bring.