There has been a lot of talk about a technical skills shortage in the United States. Some industries have already experienced it, but there have been warnings that, with the aging workforce and other factors, this will someday be an issue in nearly every industry.

But could American employers already be struggling with a different kind of skills shortage? According to a recent survey by Adecco, published in The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, the answer is yes.  Ninety-two percent of senior executives surveyed stated that they felt there was a serious gap in workforce skills, but the biggest area of concern is not technical skills.  The real problem, cited by 44% of the respondents, is the lack of soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration.

"It's interesting to see how the definition of the skills gap has evolved from being so heavily focused on technical and computer skills to 'soft' skills related to communication and creativity," said Janette Marx, Senior Vice President at Adecco Staffing US. "Educational institutions may overlook these elements in today's digital age, but schools must integrate both hard and soft skill sets into their curriculum, which in turn will help better prepare candidates and strengthen our country's workforce."

Unfortunately, the lack of soft skills is often something that is not revealed until AFTER an employee is on the job.  Technical skills are easy to test for.  Soft skills - not so much. Assessments and carefully selected interview questions can help, but things like the ability to effectively communicate on a day-to-day basis can still be hard to assess until someone is actually doing the job.

So do employers just have to cross their fingers and hope for the best when they select a candidate? No.  There is a way that they can effectively assess a candidate's soft skills . . . and you, as a recruiter, can help.  You can offer to let them try candidates on a contract-to-direct basis. That way, they can see the candidate's communication, critical thinking, creativity, etc., skills in action BEFORE they make the direct hire commitment. If they like what they see, they can extend the direct hire offer.  If that happens, you can earn a conversion fee on top of the income you make for each hour they work during the contract period. If the candidate's soft skills aren't up to par, they can simply end the contract assignment and try someone else.

Only time will tell how the skills shortages will affect the American workplace. But by offering the contract-to-direct option, you can lessen its impact on your clients and become their valued staffing partner.

Related articles:

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6 Types of Contract Placements

Are Your Clients Creating Their Own "Talent Shortages?"

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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Tags: Agency Recruiting

Comment by Valentino Martinez on October 10, 2013 at 5:55pm

Important subject, Debbie, and no small matter relative to "can do"; "will do"; and "fit" for new hires.

Internships and Co-op assignments flush out these soft skills for public view and your recommendation of contract-to-direct would also work well for taking on unemployed professionals eager to get back to work.  However, I'm not so sure too many gainfully employed professionals will go for a "test-run" to see how they fit in with a new employer.

If it's a no-go they will have left one job for the possibility of another.  Appreciating that any new hire is subject to termination for non-performance, particularly during a probationary period -- however, going to a contract-to-direct job from a full-time direct job seems to make the new opportunity sound very tentative in comparison.

 

 

 

Comment by Debbie Fledderjohann on October 11, 2013 at 1:32pm

Thanks for your comments, Valentino!  Yes, that is definitely a challenge. It certainly depends on the market and is probably more feasible for trying out workers who are currently unemployed.  However, we are hearing more and more from recruiters that contractorsare also driving the contract-to-direct trend. Many times, they want try-before-they-buy too so they can check out a company. This is especially common if they have to relocate because they can try out both the job and location before they sell their home and uproot their families. But that's a whole other topic. The take-away here is that, while it may not work in every situation, contract-to-direct is a great arrow for recruiters to have in their quiver as a potential solution to some of their clients' staffing challenges.

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