Article

Phil Livingstone
Phil Livingstone 17 October 2016

Are Workplace Behaviours More Important than Skills?

Employers are looking for a new breed of degree - one that is less academic but more behavioural perhaps? Never underestimate the power of mindset. It’s not what you achieve but how you go about it.

It’s every parent’s role to give your child the best possible start in life. For some this is about treating others equally and with respect. For some it is about the best education. Ultimately, it’s about passing on wisdom, advice and setting your kids up for life’s little trials and tribulations. 

Most people follow the same pattern; nursery school, primary school, secondary school, university and then seek employment.  Surely then, the ultimate goal for studying for a degree is to gain employment but having a degree is no longer a guarantee of employment.

Is a degree still relevant? If so, then what are employers actually looking for? Academically you travel further but are students leaving with the right skills required for the modern workplace?

Ernst & Young has recently removed degree classification from their entry criteria. It claims there is no evidence that success at university correlates to achievement in later life. They now favour online assessments to judge the potential of applicants. Penguin Random House has also changed their criteria for entry level applications announcing that it is scrapping degree requirements for its jobs. In 2015, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) scrapped UCAS points based system as entry criteria for its graduate scheme. They’ve immediately seen a change in the number of applicants from more diverse backgrounds; for example:

  • 73% - the proportion who attended state rather than private school
  • 9% - the proportion who were eligible for free school meals
  • 38% - the proportion of applicants who are first generation graduates
  • 14% - the proportion coming from homes eligible for income support

Research from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) predict an increase of 17% in the number of graduate vacancies, but some 23% of employers also quoting that they did not fill all of their graduate vacancies.  Employers stating that they are not seeing enough candidates with the employability skills they need. So what skills are needed for the workplace?

People with strong communication skills, collaborate effectively, demonstrate positivity and have the ability to problem solve (bring solutions to problems, not just problems) are more productive and therefore better placed for success at work. 

So, are so called ‘softer skills’ more valued now than professional experience and knowledge? Soft skills certainly help and are somewhat underrated. They should be looked upon equally when recruiting. Employers are looking for a new breed of degree - one that is less academic but more behavioural perhaps? Never underestimate the power of mindset. It’s not what you achieve but how you go about it.

Education provider, Kaplan, suggests that graduate employers value confidence, effective communication over technical knowledge when recruiting.

For those with more experience, technical ability and knowledge definitely gives you confidence that a person can do the role but it doesn’t tell you how they’ll go about it? It’s the softer skills that provide the validation here.

These behaviours are all applicable to various types of job categories; these hybrid skills are transferable.  It’s much easier (and faster) to learn new skills if you are open to change and have the right frame of mind from the start.

So remember the next time you prepare for an interview...work ethic, attitude, body language, enthusiasm and positivity cost nothing, requires no degree but can sometimes be the difference when it comes to recruitment.

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