Friday, July 20, 2012

Skills can be Trained, but Not Attitude

Attitude is more important in the job interview than skills

claims Mark Murphy in Forbes article Hire for attitude.

Yesterday I had a chat in the metro train with some youngsters pondering whether they will have sufficient skills for their summer jobs. I commented, that nowadays in most roles learning new and adapting constantly to new environments has become a skill. In my post What's your true profession? I referred to how organizational changes in Nokia made all positions anyway new and the speed of adapting to new environment was crucial. -It might be, that these guys willingness to learn new stuff is the key competence and ticket to new kind of roles that others cannot asses so fast.

I see Murphy's article also linking to my earlier discussion about tacit and explicit challenges in organization. Explicit challenges as known issues can be learned and trained, but how to train or even discuss something so tacit as an attitude?
-Murphy's answer is that you can't.

Are technical and soft skills less important than attitude? Why?

It’s not that technical skills aren’t important, but they’re much easier to assess (that’s why attitude, not skills, is the top predictor of a new hire’s success or failure). Virtually every job (from neurosurgeon to engineer to cashier) has tests that can assess technical proficiency. But what those tests don’t assess is attitude; whether a candidate is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, assimilate feedback and coaching, collaborate with teammates, and so forth.

Soft skills are the capabilities that attitude can enhance or undermine. For example, a newly hired executive may have the intelligence, business experience and financial acumen to fit well in a new role. But if that same executive has an authoritarian, hard-driving style, and they’re being hired into a social culture where happiness and camaraderie are paramount, that combination is unlikely to work. Additionally, many training programs have demonstrated success with increasing and improving skills—especially on the technical side. But these same programs are notoriously weak when it comes to creating attitudinal change.

We can change skill levels through training, but we cant change attitude.

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