Almost a decade ago, I was a brand-new consultant at a Fortune 500, developing the communications on the need for awareness in the cybersecurity realm. As I began working on an internal marketing campaign, I called the company’s videographer to ask a few questions about how I should go about using his services.
I could tell from the get-go, he didn’t want to talk to me and was sorry he answered the phone. After he reluctantly answered a few questions, he barked at me: “Why are you calling me? Why couldn’t you just put this in an email?!”
Confused, I replied, “I’m new here, and I’m trying to make connections and meet people that I am going to be working with.”
I thought of him during the pandemic and wondered how he coped in that virtual world with his – ‘I don’t want to talk on the phone mentality.’
We all now understand that different types of soft skills are needed as meetings and conversations happen virtually. Yet in the manufacturing and tech world, these skills are often seen as “touchy-feely.” And then, those same companies can’t figure out why they can’t find and retain talent.
In fact, the president of a local manufacturing firm told me recently that he is now hiring people for their values and personality traits, and training them for the job skills they need in the factory. Hiring for culture fit over skills is something that The Human Resource Consortium has been advocating for years! This owner of a 78-year-old company had grown tired of the inability for team members – including a former business partner – to communicate. He realized he wasn’t going to be able to keep the talent he recruited, unless he went this route.
One of the arguments against this, is that you run the risk of hiring clones of yourself instead of people with diverse voices, from diverse backgrounds. Sometimes the person with the Ivy League degree has the pedigree but isn’t going to make as good of a team member as the person who transferred to the state school from the community college. And vice versa. But if you set the values, vision, and mission of the organization, you can find people who share those values, vision and mission. AND, who may have a background comprised of different skills that will come in handy down the line while you train them for a specific job now.
Working on these “soft skills” is a constant. Both individually and as a team. So much so that in every communications workshop I give, I say the following as a reminder and a cautionary tale, “As human beings we want and need two things – to know that we are seen and heard. The reason for this is that our brains are hard-wired for connection and when we feel we are not seen and heard, we feel like we don’t matter.”
By Bridget K. Brown