The millennials are here and they have a resume full of hard skills to offer. College degrees and internships have afforded them the knowledge and newfound skill sets to add to their portfolio, but inexperience and greenness to the business world have left them with an apparent lack of soft skills.

The overeager nature and ready-for-business attitudes of millennials have come under fire in the past few years. This behavior could be attributed to the millennials’ perception that hard skills are more important than soft skills in the business world.

A 2014 study by Bentley University revealed there was a clear disconnect between the skills that business leaders and millennials deemed important. Business leaders felt integrity (81 percent), professionalism (75 percent) and positive attitude (75 percent) were the top three skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. Millennials disagreed with only 63 percent rating integrity as important, 69 percent rating professionalism as essential, and 68 percent rating positive attitude as a critical skill in the workplace.

Hard skills are job-specific abilities, such as typing, computer programming, accounting and research analysis; whereas, soft skills are more personality-driven abilities, such as teamwork, communication, flexibility and patience. While it is easier for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill.

Solidifying Soft Skills

Soft skills are strengthened and developed over time, and are necessary if employees desire to climb the corporate ladder. While millennials are known for being technologically savvy, soft skills are more effectively developed through on-the-job learning and face-to-face training initiatives. To seamlessly integrate new millennial hires into the workplace, learning and development teams can develop onboarding programs that focus on the soft skills deemed necessary to thrive within the organization.

Research studies conducted by various organizations including UNC Executive Development and Center for Creative Leadership, suggest adding the following programs into organizational training initiatives for millennials:

  • Assimilating into a new workplace culture
  • Working with team members assertively and diplomatically
  • Processing feedback
  • Approaching a supervisor for coaching and mentoring
  • Developing transferable long-term career goals, such as problem-solving, communication, negotiation and leadership

While the tug of war between the importance of soft skills versus hard skills in the workplace can go in either direction at any given time, the fact is both skill sets are essential to thrive in today’s business world. Emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ and learning and development teams need to ensure that training initiatives focus on developing both skill sets.