25 May 2017

Accurately assessing soft skills: A huge opportunity for recruiters

Soft skills, behavioural competencies, transferable skills, personal attributes, employability skills, capabilities; no matter what you might know them as, these non-technical skills are important at work and becoming more so.

Deloitte Access Economics explores this topic in their recently released report, Soft skills* for business success (It's a very readable and interesting report and I recommend you read it).

Some key facts about soft skills, as detailed in the report:

  • Between 2000 and 2015 soft skill intensive occupation growth (2.7%) was three times the rate of non-soft skill intensive occupation growth (0.9%)
    The soft skill intensive occupation annual growth rate (1.6%) is predicted to grow 2.5 times faster than occupations where soft skills are less prevalent (0.6%) to 2035
  • Soft skills intensive occupations in 2000: 53% of all occupations
  • Soft skills intensive occupations in 2015: 59% of all occupations
  • Soft skills intensive occupations in 2030: 63% of all occupations (projected)
  • A LinkedIn survey revealed that 69% of HR decision makers in Australia and New Zealand find it difficult to fill leadership roles. The top reason cited for this difficulty was a lack of soft skills (45%) amongst applicants (LinkedIn, 2016).
  • A survey by the Department of Employment found that one quarter of employers recruiting for entry level positions have difficulty filling vacancies because applicants lack employability skills (Department of Employment 2016).
  • Analysing data from the US, Demming (2015) found that the employment share of occupations requiring relatively higher levels of social skills increased. These occupations were also valued more highly in the labour market.
  • A survey of over 1,000 managers and employees (Deloitte Access Economics 2014), found that employees who have and utilise teamwork skills (a proxy for soft skills) are 3% more productive, and worth almost $2,000 more per year to a business than those using less of these skills.
  • One study found that returns to investments in soft skills were equal to the return to hard skills. In a study of 1,500 employees, Balcar (2016) found that increasing soft skills and hard skills would increase the value of employees by 8.51% and 8.84% respectively.
What are the most important soft skills, specifically?

As the report identifies there is variation amongst educational institutions and governments about the number, and ranking, of the core soft skills.

The core soft skills that were most commonly mentioned were:

  • communication
  • teamwork
  • problem solving
  • digital literacy
  • critical thinking
  • emotional judgement
All of this evidence demonstrates the importance of candidates having the necessary level of soft skills to be a in the running for a majority of jobs on offer (and almost all leadership roles).

How have recruiters responded to this trend? How have they improved their capability to identify soft skills from a standard resume (or LinkedIn profile) and to then accurately assess those soft skills, and most critically, be able to provide evidence to the client that said candidate(s) possess(es) the required soft skills?

They haven't, would be my assessment.

Most recruiters still overwhelmingly assess soft skills based on the ‘four As' (articulate, affable, ambitious, attractive) of the halo effect that come into play at the interview stage of the sourcing process.

The minority of recruiters who use effective behavioural interview questions and/or assessment technology and/or evidence-based reference checking of soft skill capability are those recruiters who currently hold a massive advantage over their industry colleagues who stubbornly stick to subjective measures of (if any attempt at all is made to measure) soft skills.

To truly differentiate yourself as a recruiter, what opportunity does the continued rise in the importance of soft skills at work create for you?

*Personally I dislike the term ‘soft skills' as the word ‘soft' could be, and is, interpreted as indicating something less significant or important compared to ‘hard' but as this is the term used in the report I have used it in this article.

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18 May 2017

The gender pay gap explained: Women are less likely to negotiate

Recently I read through the excellent Richard Lloyd Sydney Accounting Salary Report – 2017. I have seen many salary surveys over the years and most are a boring copy of each other with very little new to say about the data that has been gathered. The pedestrian reporting of salary differentials across skill levels, although mostly diligently gathered and reported, was rarely enlivened with a fresh angle on the data subsets that were available.
The directors at Richard Lloyd, Geoff Balmer and David Landau, have managed to do a fantastic job of creating a survey with interesting questions, credible data, relevant commentary and a very readable graphic design.
The data gathered from over the 2,000 accounting staff that took the survey has revealed some very interesting, but unsurprising, data.
Here are the major results:
Role classification  
(and gender split of respondents in each category)
Median base salary
(67% W, 33% M)
(45% W, 55% M)
Men paid 15.2% more ($14,000)
Senior management
(27% W, 73% M)
Men paid 16.8% more ($24,000)
The report elaborates on this data as follows:
When examining other variables such as hours worked, years of industry experience, tenure and education it remains clear that the only significant differentiator is gender. The exception is at the Senior Management level, where the only difference is in terms of number of hours worked, as well as tenure. However when comparing like-for-like, men and women, we can still see that the gap still persists
The like-for-like comparison is:  
Senior Management, 3-5 years’ tenure, CPA/CA qualified:
Median base salary for Men: $164,000
Median base salary for Women: $150,000
Men are paid 9.3% more than women ($14,000)
Even when benefits and bonuses are factored into the comparison the gender difference remains wide and pervasive:
Role classification  
Mean value of bonus
$1 602
Men paid 97% more ($790)
Men paid 50% more ($2,833)
Senior management
Men paid 18% more ($3,157)
Role classification  
Mean value of benefits
Men paid 6% more ($75)
Men paid 31% more ($562)
Senior management
Men paid 50% more ($2086)
The obvious question to ask is: Why is this gender gap so prevalent no matter how you cut the data?
The answer may be found in the research from fifteen years ago by a team of researchers, led by Carnegie Melion economics professor, Linda Babcock.
Their research, detailed in her book, co-authored by Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask has a central theme: Women are far less likely than men to initiate a negotiation.
In 2003 here’s how the New York Times reported the book’s findings:
“One of Professor Babcock's surveys, for example, found that half of men had started a negotiation within the previous two weeks, while half of women had started their most recent negotiation more than four weeks earlier. Most women did not anticipate negotiating again for another month, while half of men expected to within a week.
In another survey, 20 percent of women said they never negotiated.
Not only do women shun negotiations, the authors also point to evidence that women ask for less when they make the all-important opening offer, and then concede too quickly
Why? Professor Babcock and Ms. Laschever offer several explanations. Men see situations as adaptable; women see them as unchangeable. Men use metaphors like ''winning a ballgame'' to describe negotiating; women use metaphors like ''going to the dentist.'' Women are ''more likely than men to think that simply working hard and doing a good job will earn them success and advancement.''
According to the authors, women are expected to be selfless and nurturing, men selfish and competitive. Women often have lower expectations when it comes to pay. As a result, the authors say women have an ''impaired sense of entitlement.”
The research reveals that men are four times more likely than women to enter negotiations over pay.
Therein lies the probable cause of the gender pay gap: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
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12 May 2017

ABS Update: Contractors hit 1 million; weekly agency temp market 133,500

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics released Characteristics of Employment (6333.0, August 2016) which is always an interesting peek under the hood of the Australian labour market.
Here are some selected pieces of data from the survey (all data is at August 2016):
  • There were just over 1 million persons who were independent contractors
  • 72% male, 28% female
  • 30% of all contractors were employed in the Construction industry and 16% in the Professional, scientific and technical services industry division
  • Female contractors were most prevalent in the Professional, scientific and technical services industry division (21% of all female contractors worked in this sector) closely followed by Health care and social assistance (20%)
  • Male contractors were most prevalent in the Construction sector (40% of all male contractors worked in this sector)
  • The occupation groups with the highest number of independent contractors were Technicians and trades workers (27%) and Professionals (24%)
  • 93% of contractors expected to be with current employer/business in 12 months,
  • 40% had been with their current employer/business for 10 years or more
  • 31% of independent contractors reported their highest level of educational attainment was a Certificate III/IV. The most common educational attainment for males was a Certificate III/IV (38%), whilst for females the most common level of educational attainment was a Bachelors degree (26%)
  • 55% had more than one active contract in the reference week
Recruitment agencies and labour hire firms (‘agency’)
  • There were approximately 133,700 persons who were paid by an agency (124,400 in the 2014 survey, a 7.5% increase)
  • Approximately 600,800 persons who had found their job through an agency (599,800 in the 2014 survey)
  • The industry division with the most males who found their job through an agency was Manufacturing (21%) followed by Construction (10%)
  • The most common occupation groups for males found via an agency were Machinery operators and drivers (21%), Technicians and Trades workers (19%) and Labourers (18%)
  • The most common industry divisions for females who found their job via an agency were Health care and social assistance (16%) followed by Public administration and safety (11%)
  • The most common occupation groups for females who found their job via an agency were Clerical and administrative workers (38%) and Professionals (22%).
Qualifications and earnings
  • There were 8 million (67%) employed persons who had a non-school qualification. 3.8 million (32%) employed persons had a Bachelor degree or above, while 2.4 million (20%) employed persons had a Certificate III/IV
  • Median weekly earnings in main job was highest for those who had a Postgraduate degree ($1,500) while the lowest median weekly earning was for those with a Certificate I/II ($747). This compares to a median of $800 for those without a non-school qualification
  • Median weekly earnings in main job for male full-time workers was $1,334 compared to $1,150 for females (a 16% difference)
  • The main job mean weekly earnings was higher for males than for females in every age group. For those aged 65 years and over, mean weekly earnings for females was 62% of that for males. In the 20–24 year age group, average weekly earnings for females were 89% of male earnings
  • The industry division with the highest mean weekly earnings in main job was Mining ($2,261) followed by Electricity, gas, water and waste services ($1,660). The industry division with the lowest mean weekly earnings was Accommodation and food services ($629)
The official data reveals that contrary to popular opinion outside the recruitment industry, the use of recruitment agencies to secure work is remaining steady and the number of people paid by recruitment agencies as temps or contractors is on the increase.
Nice one, Australian recruiters.
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04 May 2017

Breast cancer: You can help me eradicate this devastating disease

The Mother's Day Classic (MDC) walk or run for breast cancer research was established in 1998 - it started from modest beginnings as a walk in the park and has grown into a major national community event.

From the inaugural events in Melbourne and Sydney which attracted approximately 3,200 people, the event has now become an integral part of Mother's Day morning for more than 135,000 Australians who enjoy getting up early to walk or run and raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.

In 2016, more than 107,000 Australians who took part in the event raised $3 million for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). This takes the total raised since 1998 to $30.4 million.

Sunday 14 May is Mother's Day this year and my family will again be participating in the Mother's Day Classic to remember my sister, Mary and do something positive to prevent what happened to her from happening to others.

On 18 January, 2012 my sister, Mary, passed away after fighting breast cancer for nearly four years. She was one month past her 44th birthday. Her husband, Sam, her son Ned (then 5) and her daughter Lola (then 3) were left devastated, as were all of us who loved Mary, whether as a sister, daughter, cousin, niece, friend or colleague.

In 2016, thanks to 72 donors I raised $7,025. So far, my five annual MDC fundraising campaigns have netted $33,850 in donations. I would like to thank all of you who have made this achievement possible for me, through your support and contributions during the past five campaigns.

In 2017 I continue my role as a Community Champion for MDC inspired by the MBCF goal of zero breast cancer deaths by 2030.

My goal in the next 3 weeks is to raise $10,000 for breast cancer research, as part of my participation in this year's MDC.

Once again this year I am asking for your help.

I willingly provide InSight each week to you for free. If you have gained at least ten dollars' worth of value in reading InSight or my blog, I ask you to demonstrate your appreciation by donating $10 to the campaign to beat breast cancer.

Donations are tax deductible and you will receive a tax invoice for your donation which can be made with Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

To donate please visit my MDC fundraising page and click on the green GIVE NOW button in the middle of the screen.

Once again, thank you for supporting breast cancer research and making a contribution towards preventing this devastating disease which one in nine Australian women have to confront at some stage in their lives.

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