The quality you should be looking for in new hires but aren't

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Are you placing importance on the right soft skills and qualities when it comes to choosing a new team member?

A new survey from Express Employment Professionals, the largest franchised staffing company in North America, reveals the “soft skills” employers value most. The winning “skill” sort of surprised me.

The findings come from the 2014 edition of the “Canada Employed” survey of 22 Express franchises across Canada, explains the press release. Respondents were asked to name the “top five most important soft skills an applicant should have.” What did they say?

Dependability/reliability came in on top, followed by verbal communication, motivation, enthusiasm, and flexibility/adaptability, to make up the top five.

Here’s the whole list, which is actually a mixture of soft skills and personality traits/qualities. Meet me at the bottom for some commentary:

The five most important soft skills according to Express Employment:

Dependability/Reliability: 70%
Communication (verbal): 55%
Motivation: 45%
Enthusiasm: 40%
Flexibility/Adaptability: 35%
Commitment: 35%
Listening: 35%
Interpersonal abilities: 30%
Initiative: 25%
Team work: 25%
Confidence: 15%
Problem solving: 15%
Dedication: 15%
Communication (written): 10%
Professionalism: 10%
Time management: 10%
Personal values: 5%
Customer service: 5%
Loyalty: 5%

The notable thing here is that loyalty is allllllll the way down at the bottom, with just 5% of respondents classing it as the most important. Please allow me to suggest that you move it up on your list.

Here’s why: As we have discussed before, the price of employee turnover is extremely high. It costs 20% of a $50,000 employee’s salary to replace that person, according to one study. Projects also get lost or forgotten when people leave, forward motion is halted.

You really want someone who will stick around. Loyal people will also work harder for you, because you are you, and not just anybody.

In return, if you find a loyal candidate, employers would do well to reward that person’s loyalty with loyalty of their own.

Our internal research shows that the number one motivator to apply for and take a job – aside from salary and location – is opportunity for advancement. We also know that the vast majority of people have to leave a current job if they want to move up the ladder, because employers do not, for whatever reason, promote from within.

It used to be that one would work at the same company for 25 or 30 years, moving up the ranks from mailroom to senior partner (OK, that’s a bit of a dramatization, maybe the plot of a musical, but you get the idea). These days people stay in jobs for two years or less before moving on. Nobody expects loyalty from anyone. Employers are ever ready to lay people off with no notice, while workers are always prepared to jump ship for a better job. This fosters at best a culture of short-term thinking, at worst a culture of mercenaries. In the long term, it might not be the most sustainable model for running a successful business.

Loyalty. How can you spot it? Well, I’m sure your HR department has its own ways of sussing out candidate personalities, but there is one potential sign you might be hiring a disloyal person: if you are poaching that person from a competitor, and they are immediately ready to take your offer. That’s a pretty big red flag.

To summarize: the rest of the qualities/“soft skills” on the above list are important, but don’t make the mistake of underestimating the value of loyalty. Seek loyal employees, and return that loyalty with same. See how that works out for you.

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