The terms “hard” and “soft” skills are not necessarily outdated, but they are becoming less commonly used in modern workplace discussions. The main reason for this is that the traditional categorization of skills as either hard or soft does not fully capture the complexity of skills that are valued in today’s job market.
Hard skills are typically defined as technical or specific abilities that are often easily quantifiable and measurable, such as proficiency in a programming language or knowledge of accounting principles. Soft skills, on the other hand, are often described as interpersonal or social skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
While these categories may have been useful in the past, they can be limiting and fail to capture the full range of skills that are necessary for success in many modern workplaces. For example, skills such as adaptability, creativity, and critical thinking are increasingly valued in many industries, but may not fit neatly into either the hard or soft skill category.
As a result, many employers and professionals are beginning to use more nuanced language to describe the skills they value, such as “core” or “foundational” skills that are essential for any job, and “contextual” skills that are specific to a particular industry or job function.
Overall, while the terms “hard” and “soft” skills may still be useful in some contexts, they are increasingly seen as overly simplistic and inadequate for describing the full range of skills that are necessary for success in modern workplaces.
A new era of Human Resources (HR) Management
The post-industrial era brought about significant changes in the way businesses operate and manage their human resources (HR). One way to understand this shift is through the lens of Belbin team roles, which describe the different roles individuals can play within a team to maximize their effectiveness.
In the post-industrial era, businesses moved away from traditional hierarchies and towards more collaborative and flexible work environments. Belbin team roles became particularly relevant in this context, as businesses recognized the importance of building diverse teams that could work together effectively and efficiently.
Here is an overview of how each of the Belbin team roles could be applied in a post-industrial HR management context. As you read the roles below, think about which one sounds most like you, and which ones describe the people you like working with as part of a collaboration:
The plant role involves generating new ideas and concepts. In a post-industrial HR management context, this role might be particularly important for businesses seeking to innovate and adapt to changing market conditions.
The monitor evaluator role involves analyzing ideas and assessing their potential value. This role can be particularly important in a post-industrial context where businesses need to make quick decisions based on incomplete information.
The coordinator role involves managing the team and delegating tasks. In a post-industrial context, the coordinator role may be particularly relevant for businesses seeking to build collaborative, cross-functional teams.
The resource investigator role involves seeking out new opportunities and contacts. This role could be particularly important in a post-industrial context where businesses need to be proactive in identifying new markets and potential partners.
The implementer’s role involves turning ideas into action. In a post-industrial context, businesses may rely on implementers to rapidly prototype and test new products or services.
The completer finisher role involves ensuring that tasks are completed to a high standard. In a post-industrial context, this role may be particularly important for businesses seeking to deliver high-quality products or services in a rapidly changing market.
The team worker role involves building relationships and promoting collaboration within the team. In a post-industrial context, the team worker role may be particularly important for businesses seeking to build diverse, inclusive teams that can work effectively together.
The specialist role involves providing expertise and knowledge in a specific area. In a post-industrial context, businesses may rely on specialists to provide deep domain expertise in rapidly evolving fields such as technology and digital marketing.
Overall, the post-industrial era brought about significant changes in the way businesses manage their HR. By focusing on building diverse, collaborative teams that can rapidly adapt to changing market conditions, businesses can maximize their chances of success in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
While the team roles at work defines the tasks the role undertakes as an example, it does not define what skills are required to do the tasks. And while this may suit larger businesses, what do small businesses do that can’t afford to employ 9 staff?
What does a Micro-business do if they don’t have the staff?
A micro-business is defined as a any business that has 4 or fewer employees, and make up 85% to 90% of all businesses (by number of businesses).
The answer under the team roles is to group the roles into 3 categories that require similar skill sets to complete tasks. This allows micro-business owners to create job descriptions with primary, secondary, and tertiary tasks relating to which of the job roles are most needed to implement an operational or marketing plan.
The Belbin team roles are grouped into three domains:
These roles are focused on achieving the team’s objectives and include the Plant, Implementer, and Completer Finisher roles. Action-oriented roles are often associated with getting things done and driving results.
These roles are focused on building relationships and promoting collaboration within the team. The Teamworker, Resource Investigator, and Coordinator roles are all part of this domain. People-oriented roles are often associated with promoting communication and fostering teamwork.
These roles are focused on generating new ideas and analyzing information. The Monitor Evaluator and Specialist roles are both part of this domain. Thought-oriented roles are often associated with innovation and intellectual curiosity.
By grouping the Belbin team roles into these three domains, businesses and organizations can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their teams and identify areas for improvement. By building teams that are diverse across all three domains, organizations can maximize their chances of success and adapt more effectively to changing market conditions.
Around 60% of all businesses do not employ anyone in Queensland, so they have to do all the 3 domains themselves. You don’t start your own business because you want to do things you don’t like doing, so “solopreneurs” tend to form collaborations with others in the market, known as “complimentors” rather than competitors, who refer work to each other rather than taking on customers that want the solopreneurs hate doing.
This is why networking events have become so successful in recent years at creating viable businesses from their membership. But if you don’t know what skills you have to offer first, it is unlikely others will form collaborations with you as you have nothing to offer in return. If all you have is money to offer, not skills, you may as well employ staff who will work with you for that.
Future skills for work
If this is all making sense so far, then this definition of what skills are will likely align with your business values. Both as a self-assessment, and what to look for in others to join your team.
The VeriSkills® (by QTAC) Human Capability Standards are sorted into three domains of learning and nontechnical practice. When constructed, each capability will focus on a distinct but complementary balance between cognition, personal character and emotions, and applied skills and knowledge.
Based on global research projects and extensive collaborative research work, the collaboration between The Institute for Working Futures Pty Ltd and Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC®) sought to validate the most important capabilities for the future workplace.
So for those of you out there, like me, who don’t have a PhD in education, here are the skills to develop to excel at the above job roles:
Able to use a range of tools or methods to critically examine and assess existing information, thinking, assumptions and issues to present well-reasoned insights or to make judgements.
Able to actively contribute to creative works, ideas or novel solutions.
Able to adjust to change and maintain their curiosity, while dealing with disruption, pressure and setbacks, in a resilient and positive manner.
Able to be entrepreneurial and make connections between disparate ideas, challenge current thinking or practices, and actively use knowledge to create new products, solutions or opportunities.
Able to identify and continuously develop one’s own knowledge, skills and personal attributes such as mindset and motivation.
Initiative and Drive
Able to appreciate personal strengths and weaknesses and effectively relate to others in a professional manner. This includes being able to work independently, set and attain personal and work-related goals, being motivated, and accepting responsibility for their actions.
Able to engage with others with sensitivity and regard for diversity and the social or cultural differences impacting behaviour.
Able to act with integrity and in conformance with social and professional standards of ethical conduct.
Able to recognise and regulate their own emotions in any situation, while also being good at identifying and respecting the needs and feelings of other people.
Able to communicate with clarity and impact to facilitate individual and collective understanding, action or information exchange.
Able to work collaboratively with all types of people, contribute to teamwork and to build relationships and networks across a range of people or groups.
Able to define and analyse problems, generate optimal solutions and make recommendations.
Able to use digital technology to undertake workplace tasks and outcomes.
Able to focus on customer service requirements and works proactively to raise the customer experience.
Are skills transferable?
The short answer to this is yes, and no.
Skills may be transferable, but performance in new job roles depends heavily on the level of skills you have in areas such as life-long learning, problem-solving, and of course collaboration skills if you are joining a new team.
To explain this we turn to Core Skills for Work framework which defines “when” skills are transferable in a given real-world situation.
The Core Skills for Work (CSfW) make up one part of the “foundations skills” listed as unit requirements in all Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications as part of the formal tertiary education system in Australia.
However, performance is not automatically transferrable to new contexts, as application of skills, knowledge and understandings in a new context requires an understanding of that context.
Hence, an individual who has only ever applied their skills in a classroom setting will need to learn about the protocols and expectations of a work situation, and gain practical experience in applying their skills in a work environment.
This is the source of the criticism from businesses for Uni or RTO courses that lead to a qualification that don’t require some form of work placement in and real-world business experience.
They may be competent to do the job, but to keep new employees on small business owners need to new employees to be proficient to keep their job. This means the new employee may have the skills, but not at the level a Micro-business owner needs them to be.
No business I know can afford to put 25% of their new employees through proficiency coaching as part of their onboarding process. Maybe during a 3-6 month probation, if the employees last that long.
This is a huge barrier for micro-business to put on just one new employee, even as a casual or contractor. A barrier we hope to overcome for around 8,500 businesses in Brisbane Southeast employment region through the Small Business and Jobs expo this year.
How will we do that?
Come along to Nissan Arena on June 13th, 2023, for the Brisbane expo, and find out for yourself.