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Why hiring for power skills is the key to success

Dr Martina Carroll-Garrison - Dr. Tina Talks Work

The HR Director: Why hiring for power skills is the key to success
In a world that has changed utterly in the last two years, organisations are having to rethink how to drive their growth strategies.

Yes, technology  has connected us to markets that previously we couldn’t reach. In theory, just about every business now has access to a global marketplace, and naturally this increases opportunities. 

However, the technology has also increased the war for talent as employees with in-demand skill sets are headhunted and poached constantly. 

As a result, reskilling and upskilling are words that have become part of our professional lexicon. 

And to remain ahead of the curve, organisations are genuinely doing their best to provide training opportunities to their workforces. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2021, 63% of L&D professionals believe training has a seat at the executive level.

But here is where we need to be careful.

Of course, technical skills are valuable. But exclusively offering training to upgrade the technical skills of your workforce is not enough to position your organisation successfully for the future.

Rather, it is essential to train your employees in power skills  in order to build a robust organisation.

What are power skills?
Previously known as “soft skills”, power skills is the new name for skills that involve good communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership capabilities. 

In 2017, Google released the findings of a surprising study in their organisation. They discovered that their highest performing teams were not necessarily the teams with the most qualified individuals. Instead their highest performing teams were with those that showed the largest concentration of soft skills. 

In fact, we’ve been doing these skills a great disservice over the years by calling them “soft”.

This is being rectified by their new “power skills” name. 

The value to your organisation if you hire for soft skills
It’s a case of stating the obvious to say that the nature of work has undergone a massive shift in the last two years.

That shift does not only comprise where your employees sit in the case of remote working. Distributed workforces also have an impact on how your employees interact with each other and on how they expect to be led.

If you have been hiring for power skills, you’ll find your organisation in a strong position to take advantage of the new work environment we find ourselves in. Having people on your team who possess strong skills related to communication and problem-solving ensures cohesive team relationships.

And also provides an environment for innovation.

A study by MIT Sloan on the effect power skills training has on problem-solving and communication in decision-making yielded a 250 percent ROI in only eight months.

How to develop power skills in your teams
Many organisations are hyper-focused on developing technical skills among their workforce. This is partly easy to understand due to the simple nature of measuring technical skills. 

Assumptions are often made that people will arrive in their roles with power skills. Although we’re seeing this change, historically we have seen little attempt to offer power skills training to employees. Or, if they are offered, this is done as a one-time training offer.

Yet, power skills are the ones that unleash transformational value. 

Therefore, providing mentoring and coaching opportunities to your workforce is the way to train and upskill for these powerful functionalities.

Identify what power skills your employees need to further improve their skill menu. Here, data can help you. Psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) or 360o feedback, also known as multi-rater feedback, can help you pinpoint what skills are needed.

Then, remember that power skills are behavioural in nature. That means that for your training to be impactful, it needs to be personal, continuous and focused. 

Creating this kind of training will also help you build a healthy leadership pipeline. For example, part of Microsoft’s training remit offered to staff is on “growth mindset” – not just upgrading technology skills. 

A combination of hard and power skills
There is no doubt that technical skills are necessary for a leader.

But these have to be coupled with a host of power skills. Managing customer relationships, leading team members with empathy, having the ability to make strong decisions and influence others, at times under stressful and fast-paced conditions, and employing critical thinking capabilities to innovate and drive your organisation forward – this is what power skills do.

They can’t be learned overnight. 

However, if you train for them consistently you’ll be rewarded many times over.

Just ask MIT Sloan.


Bio: As a Georgetown University trained and ICF Certified Executive Leadership Coach, with a Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership, and a global professional portfolio, Dr. Martina Carroll-Garrison is uniquely skilled to help optimise your organisation, improve employee engagement and enhance both reputation and performance. Her website is


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