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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do I Measure Soft Skills

July 16, 2004
Dear Wondering:

Don't start with the job descriptions. Unlike production outputs, which typically have hard numbers attached to them, soft-skill outputs are measured in behavioral terms. For instance, the output required to produce a product might be cooperating with coworkers.
Now that you've got the output--cooperation with coworkers--you need to figure out the appraisal parameters. These could be being flexible and open to others' ideas. You would measure the extent to which employees are flexible in dealing with each other and their willingness to listen to and possibly use other people's ideas.
As you think about the behavioral outputs, there may be some that will apply to both groups and some unique to each group. For example, the required output from both groups might be cooperation. One group, however, might require an additional ability to routinely and effectively deal with complaints. In that case, the behavioral output would be effectively dealing with complaints, and the appraisal parameters could be effective listening and problem-solving.
It's not hard to include soft-skill behaviors in appraisals if employees are given a quantitative way to score these behaviors. If the question is to what extent does an employee do this or that, all that's required is to carefully define the behavior. Take, for example, flexibility and openness to other workers' ideas. An appraisal might look like this:
To what extent does this employee… Not at all To a great extent
1. Remain flexible when dealing with coworkers 1 2 3 4 5
2. Demonstrate a willingness to listen to others 1 2 3 4 5
Begin by defining the behavioral outputs. Establish the soft-skill appraisal parameters, and then give each a quantitative dimension.
SOURCE: Bruce Hammond, Ph.D., executive consultant, AchieveGlobal, Tampa, Florida, Aug. 25, 2003.
LEARN MORE: The Hard Case for Soft Skills.
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