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Discerning Talent in Challenging Times: Why HR Needs to Look Beyond Skill Set 

Discerning Talent in Challenging Times: Why HR Needs to Look Beyond Skill Set 

Discerning Talent in Challenging Times: Why HR Needs to Look Beyond Skill Set 

Competition for labor is intense. In the nationwide Great Resignation, workers left their jobs by the millions. Baby Boomers also exited the workforce. “Help Wanted” signs are posted everywhere. In many instances, as quickly as a candidate accepts a job, another resigns or retires from the company. In today’s tight labor market, hiring managers and HR professionals struggle with the unenviable task of finding workers. When job candidates are identified, it becomes particularly important to assess talent accurately and efficiently, matching job candidates to the roles where they’ll excel. With so many employees exiting the workforce, new hires will be asked to adapt and advance quickly to fill the gaps. 

What is the difference between skills and abilities? 

Although skill sets are one of several predictors of job performance, they are not the best indicator. Abilities are. Abilities are classes of behaviors established early in life and relatively stable; they are resistant to change. Skills on the other hand are other classes of behavior built on or developed from abilities and are not stable; they wax and wane. 

An example of an ability is mechanical ability and an example of a skill based on mechanical ability is troubleshooting. People who have high verbal ability often develop skill as writers or editors. The abilities and skills graphic below provides additional examples of the relationship between some abilities and their related skill. 

Skills often vary widely because of a candidate’s life experiences. Even when an applicant has a particular skill related to a job opening, the candidate may not be a good fit for the job, because a combination of other skills will be required. Skills are more difficult to determine or assess because they typically require some demonstration of behavior. Examples of measurable, observable behaviors that involve skill include replacing a bearing on worn equipment or proofreading a blog article. If skill assessment is not done in a consistent, controlled fashion, the reliability of the data gathered can vary widely. Skills can also vary due to use or non-use. If someone learns French, but does not speak or write French, their skills will wane. The same is true for a skill such as driving or putting a golf ball. Golfers often find their putting stroke or driving skill is rusty at the start of a golf season. 

In the changing world of manufacturing, assessing job skills that will change dramatically is folly. Abilities on the other hand are the foundation to build the needed skills for the future. What we need to do is to look for and select manufacturing operators and maintenance personnel based on their underlying abilities. 

How do ability and skill relate to employee selection?  

If you select candidates who demonstrate the abilities for an open role, you’re hiring candidates with a solid foundation. They are likely to perform well in their initial role with the company and successfully advance into new roles. The employee has the underlying ability to perform well across-the-board.  

Having the means to discern and accurately measure abilities in these times where it’s difficult to find needed talent is therefore critically important. Organizations should assess abilities accurately and efficiently, matching job candidates to the role requirements where they’ll excel. The necessary skills will be built on the foundation of abilities. 

We at 15dots use a sophisticated job analysis tool called a Positional Analysis Questionnaire to identify and confirm the abilities associated with a given job role. 15dots has analyzed over 30,000 jobs, mainly in manufacturing settings. Obviously, certain jobs require specific abilities. For example, to be proficient in troubleshooting, individuals need mechanical ability, in addition to several other abilities. They also need the ability to visualize the process or equipment they’re troubleshooting from all perspectives. Someone who possesses mechanical ability can more readily learn to trouble-shoot equipment and machinery. They adapt more easily to working on different equipment. Essentially, they possess the foundation to learn skills that require mechanical ability. 

How does 15dots help ensure the best hire? 

15dots trains organizational personnel to administer ability tests and moves organizational personnel at all levels toward interviewing expertise. Rock-solid employee selection identifies and maximizes the potential of a company’s most valuable resource – people. Identifying a candidate’s potential through validated ability tests – not skill set alone – is a strong predictor of job performance now and in the future. 

Although hiring managers and HR personnel face challenging times in today’s economy, hiring decisions have consequences.

 Competency or skill set matter less than an underlying, all-around ability to perform well.  

Contact Joe Nowlin, or (812) 332-1102 to learn how employee selection is the key to hiring highly motivated, highly able employees – even with a limited pool of applicants.  

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