Technical skills are easy to focus on when building a team — they are concrete, easy to measure and familiar. But a 2018 study by LinkedIn found that 57 percent of business leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills.
This is especially true for companies undergoing a digital transformation, which involves tackling new tasks and working with teams throughout the organization. Without workers who possess the ability to solve problems, get things done, and work well with others, managing change at that scale is a risky undertaking.
Here are six soft skills IT leaders must look for when building teams for digital transformation.
1. Critical thinking
When it comes to new undertakings, critical thinking is a skill that helps people define and solve new problems that come their way. It involves conceptualizing, synthesizing, and analyzing data, as well as the ability to reason and draw conclusions from those analyses. It’s essential for business survival.
Yet a study by MindEdge found that only 36 percent of current students and recent graduates feel that they are well trained in critical thinking, and only 20 percent feel their colleagues are well trained.
To hire critical thinkers, look for candidates who can demonstrate their thought process to you when talking through their work, including examples of how they have handled making important decisions or solving complex problems through research, deliberation, collaboration, decision making, and execution.
2. Complex communication
Digital transformation can require complex changes that require buy-in across an organization. Your team must be able to take technical terms and explain them — in writing and through speech — in a way that the rest of the business can understand.
This is especially true because your digital transformation will touch every department and employee in your company. You need people who can create buy-in and understanding of the process and goals throughout the company.
Creativity isn’t just being able to draw amazing pictures or write thought-provoking short stories. Creative people can look at a problem and think of new ways to solve it in ways that often seem off-the-wall at first glance. They aren’t afraid to take a risk during the thinking and brainstorming phase.
To gauge the creative skills of a potential hire, consider sharing a current challenge that the company is looking to solve and ask the candidate how they would approach the problem. Don’t focus on the viability of the solution, but on their thought process and originality. Does the person rely on traditional processes and methods, or are they proposing a new angle that you hadn’t considered?
These days, work is inherently collaborative. You need team members who are willing to work with others — listen to their ideas, brainstorm, communicate, take feedback, and be willing to share the spotlight.
For example, during GE’s transition to one master CRM, the team collaborated with employees in different roles and departments of the company by giving people an equal voice, eliminating silos, and having technology experts involved in the entire process.
5. Flexibility and adaptability
Regardless of how organized you are, your digital transformation will not always go according to plan. Some tasks will take longer than expected. New challenges will arise. The end result may look completely different from what you imagined when you started.
So you need people on your team who can easily change course and adapt quickly. By filling your team with people who are flexible and can pivot easily, you can focus on changing the organization rather than managing change within your own team.
6. Productivity and accountability
To meet your goals around digital transformation in a timely manner, you need people who can get a lot done quickly. You know the type: everyone else wonders how they seem to find more hours in the day than everyone else. And equally important, you need people accountable for their work.
These skills can be difficult to assess during an interview. Consider asking the interviewee to tell you about a recent work project. Look for clues in their narration to gauge what the candidate was responsible for and what they were able to accomplish in a short period of time. To assess their accountability, ask what they would have done if the project was running late.
Building a team that thrives
Building a team that can take on the thorniest of challenges is no easy undertaking. But keeping in mind the importance of soft skills, as well as technical skills, when hiring for your team can help you move your business forward even faster.