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Don’t forget about soft skills when hiring for tech jobs

December 10, 2018

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consultancy, released a study earlier this year entitled, “Closing the Technology Leadership Gap.” The report investigates the state of soft skills, defined as communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, and leadership in technology and IT hiring decisions. It pinpoints the lack of focus on soft skills in today’s workplaces as the cause of productivity, innovation, and growth issues.

The report found that, while the importance of soft skills has increased significantly over the past three years, many companies don’t train for these capabilities on technology teams – including IT. The study also found that leadership is technology employees’ most underdeveloped soft skill.  It’s important when interviewing for technology-based positions, or really any position, to evaluate the candidate on more than simply hard skills.

To stay competitive in today’s digital world, business leaders need to enlist a holistic mindset regarding technologists’ skillsets,” said Kevin McCarty, president and CEO of West Monroe. “To remain on the forefront of innovation, companies need to put their technologists in a position to lead. They also must prioritize soft skills and leadership training as part of continued growth and development.”

West Monroe surveyed 1,250 individuals across two surveys made up of 600 HR and recruiting professionals, and 650 full-time employees who regularly work with their company’s technology teams. Key highlights of the survey include:

HR Leaders Want Soft Skills (But They Don’t Cultivate Them) 
98% of HR leaders say soft skills are important in landing a technology position.
67% say they have withheld a job offer from an otherwise qualified technical candidate solely because they lacked soft skills.
They ranked verbal communication and collaboration the most important soft skills. However, most companies don’t invest in developing their technology professionals’ soft skills further. 

Technology Professionals Aren’t Seen as Leaders
HR leaders consider leadership to be the least important soft skill for prospective technology hires.
39% of companies lack a technology background in the c-suite. This absence affects collaboration between business and tech employees.

Lacking Soft Skills Hurts an Organization’s Ability to Innovate 
43% of full-time employees say soft-skills-related challenges with IT have negatively impacted their work, which is problematic considering that innovative projects increasingly require employees to work alongside each other.

Collaboration-based issues have delayed or prolonged a project for 71% of respondents. A third of employees have missed a deadline altogether because of communication issues.

“Technologists and full-time employees are collaborating more than ever, and it’s evident this will continue in the coming years,” said Greg Layok, senior director of West Monroe’s technology practice. “However, communication barriers can still silo these groups and stifle productivity. Businesses must take a two-pronged approach to training – one that not only develops technologists’ soft skills to effectively collaborate with the line of business, but also teaches business leaders a level of fluency to understand the technology side.”

Soft skills should be evaluated during the hiring process but also continually developed during the employment journey.

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