Hard skills play an important function in virtually any company. For an organization’s success, it’s essential to ensure that roles are filled by competent individuals who either have or can quickly learn the hard skills required for the job. But even when you hire the right person with the right skills for the job, the skills they need to do their job will change over time. Today, the skills needed for most jobs are constantly evolving. In order to meet the hard skill standards required, organizations need continuous L&D programs to keep employees up to speed with evolving technology and methods of work.
What are Hard Skills?
A hard skill is that which is subject to some type of objective measurement. For instance, programming is a hard skill that needs to be fostered over time. A person’s level of proficiency in a certain programming language can be assessed by giving them a task to create code. Their output can be graded by measuring the time it took to complete the task and how many errors were made.
In comparison, soft skills are graded subjectively. Take, for example, written communication skills. Somebody who is assessing this skill might prefer a candidate whose writing is short and precise, while another assessor prefers extensive explanations.
Why are Hard Skills Important?
Hard skills are the basis of many enterprises and are used to some extent in every organization. Firms that sell manufactured goods or software rely on engineers and production staff. Any organization that deals with finance need accountants. Even entities that provide only human resource-based services, such as schools and social workers, still use computerized processes such as payroll sheets and scheduling, not to mention the way teachers use electronics in their classrooms.
However, despite their fundamental nature, hard skills are actually seen as less essential, in many cases, than soft skills. For instance, in this LinkedIn Learning survey, 57% of leaders believe that soft skills are more important than hard skills.
This does not mean that hard skills are not necessary – they are, as we’ve stated, essential. Instead, it signifies that a lack of soft skills can have a more detrimental effect on an organization – or an employee’s tenure at that organization – than a lack of hard skills. For example, some of the top reasons for being fired are attitude and personality conflicts, with the ability to ‘get the job done’ ranking third.
Examples of Hard Skills
There are thousands of work-related activities that can be considered hard skills, but for the sake of classification and simplicity, there are three basic types of hard skills:
Physical tasks rely on some kind of physical activity. Physical hard skills include certification in a type of heavy machinery, such as truck driving, forklift operation, etc
Certain sorts of work must be carried out according to some type of professional regulation. Examples include bookkeeping, engineering, and manufacturing.
Every workplace has a set of general practices which keep the company running smoothly. Jobs that require procedures include secretarial tasks, programming, and working with communications media.
Hard Skills Development
Some hard skills require only a few short hours of instruction, while others take years to develop. One example of a task that touches on all three categories as listed above is bookkeeping.
Bookkeepers need to input data, a physical skill that relies on typing. This skill might be taught by a trainer at a community college or through an online course.
Secondly, the role of bookkeepers is to maintain accounting records, and accounting is a standards-based profession. For this reason, a bookkeeper must have a firm grasp of accounting rules such as GAAP. These standards are often acquired in university business courses or accounting schools.
Lastly, each organization has a unique financial system and so develops internal bookkeeping procedures. Becoming familiar with such procedures occurs once the bookkeeper is employed by the organization, who is then probably advised by a mentor regarding the record-keeping practices of the company. Bookkeeping also depends on software, so the employee would also need instruction on whatever accounting program the organization uses.
It should be noted that coaching also has a place in developing a bookkeeper’s skills. Should the employee face a non-technical challenge like time management, for example, a coach would be the best option for the job.
GrowthSpace Technology for Diverse Skill L&D Programs
The one similarity between hard and soft skills? Their ever-evolving nature. As the skills necessary for any position change, so too do the communities of top-level trainers, coaches, and mentors who develop these skills within organizations. For instance, a coach who is great at teaching C+ might not be so up to date on Python.
Keeping track of optimal L&D programs in this shifting environment is a huge challenge, particularly for large organizations. That’s why so many of them are turning to GrowthSpace. GrowthSpace’s employee development platform links the best L&D experts in the world today with the companies that need their expertise to close skill gaps.