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Employers’ Most Desired Skills

Filling out job applications is all about advertising your skills to potential employers. You might have a wide skill set built up over many years, or you might have had a more focused career, but the trick is in working out which of your talents would be of the most value to an employer and placing more emphasis on them in your application. Of course, this might mean that each application form or speculative letter will have a different emphasis depending on the company you’re applying to.

But within the specialist skills that each of us has is a set of skills that are almost universally valuable in the workplace. We’ve listed the most crucial here.

Verbal Communication

No matter what field you’re working in, you’ll have to be able to communicate instructions, reports and opinions to colleagues. Clarity of speech, a mature, professional manner of speech and confidence to express yourself are all of value. It’s also important to be able to tune your voice to fit the purpose – you’ll communicate with clients differently than you would with suppliers and colleagues, for example. You could be the first voice a potential client hears when they contact your company, so they’ll be placing great importance on how well you can pull it off.

Written Communication Skills

It’s the same with the written word. If you can express yourself on the page and on the screen you’ll be an asset to any company. If you’re prone to spelling mistakes, make sure you get someone to proof your application forms, CVs and speculative mail. Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors are a huge turn-off and could be the difference between getting the job and missing out.

Listening

It’s not all about talking to other people. Communication is a two-way street, and listening is key to successful navigation of it. After all, the excellent talking skills you’ve cultivated might not be gifts of those who communicate with you, and you might find yourself having to not only listen intently to what they are saying but also to interpret subtext and make sense of it all.

Good Judgement

It’s hard to show good judgement in an application form or a CV, but a shrewd employer will be able to see evidence of it in your past actions. They’ll be able to judge the career path you’ve taken so far and discern whether your judgement has ever been rash or immature. That’s not to say failure is a detrimental factor; most employers will recognise the value of an entrepreneurial spirit when applied to a promising project, even if the situation doesn’t quite work out. Indeed, failure is an important part of character-building.

Above Average Computer Skills

Nobody wants to take an employee on and spend the first weeks teaching them how to use Windows, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, or popular but specialist solutions such as Photoshop, Digital Publishing Suite or MySQL if they’re appropriate to the task. You might be fine with a good working knowledge of the main solutions, but all of them feature hot keys, advanced workarounds and uncommon features that can greatly enhance your productivity.

Ability to Absorb Knowledge

All jobs will require a blend of the skills and knowledge you bring to the company and the specific skills that are unique to the job. You’ll be expected to treat your existing knowledge as a base on which to add the skills of the new job, and the quicker you can do that, the better it is for the company. If we take your existing skills as a given (assuming you haven’t overworked them on your application), it is a good idea to give evidence of times in the past when you’ve picked up new skills and put them to good effect.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Companies taking you on are investing in you, and if you can show you’ll be able to give a long-term return on that investment, so much the better. We’ve all seen how quickly technology has moved along in the past decade, and there’s no reason to suspect it has stopped. Anyone who has proved unable to adapt to the new reality will have fallen by the wayside, but to employers, that represents a big expense if they aim to replace them. It’s far preferable to companies to have people who know their jobs and how to adapt them when change comes – as it always will.

 

Charlie Reynolds has over 10 years’ experience working in HR and been a writer for the past 12 years. Charlie now uses his field expertise as a copywriter for Skills Arena.​

How Technology is Changing Recruitment

Today’s graduates and school-leavers looking at how their parents used to go about getting a job would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into some kind of Victorian fantasy. For a start, everything happened so slowly, letters and CVs trundling through the Royal Mail – and some companies actually taking the trouble to send out formal rejection letters. Let’s have a look at how things have changed.

The Internet

The first change barely qualifies as new technology any more because it’s been in the mainstream for approaching 20 years. But if you’ve been in the same job since the mid-1990s, you’re in for a shock when you come to make your next application. You’ll be expected to be a fully signed-up, switched-on member of the online community. You’ll be submitting your CV online and communicating via email or other instant messaging techniques.

Social Media

If the internet is a confusing territory for you, the phenomenon of social media is going to blow you away. But if you’re reading this article, we’ll assume you know your LinkedIn from your Pinterest.
First of all, recruiters will be using social media to make contact with potential candidates – sometimes actively, sometimes passively. People make contact with companies they are targeting, and will look out for advertised openings, which they’ll no doubt duplicate on social media for maximum exposure. You need to be one of them if you want to get the inside track.
But it works both ways. Your entire social media history (or at least the parts that aren’t set as private) is there for them to see. Candidates from the generation that has grown up barely knowing a world without social media have their entire lives online – from their professional lives to their hobbies, relationships, nights out and family lives – for all the world to see.
While no employer is expecting candidates to have no life outside work, some recruitment experts warn against making the more colourful aspects of one’s social life public. But there’s a balance to be struck – many employers do value people with active social lives. In some industries sociable candidates tend to make better colleagues.

LinkedIn

The business social network LinkedIn deserves a section of its own because it’s the only mainstream channel whose stated purpose is to assist business. It works via multiple streams:
• Users have professional profiles, which can augment your CV (although it’s still a good idea to edit your CV to emphasise aspects relevant to the role you’re applying for and to keep you LinkedIn profile as more of a permanent record of skills and qualifications).
• Other users can give endorsements and recommendations – a modern-day reference.
• The number of connections you have gives some indication as to the strength of your connections. Unlike some social media, LinkedIn connections are necessarily mutual.
• You can use the “degrees of separation” on LinkedIn to discover mutual friends, colleagues or ex-colleagues and approach them for a personal reference.
• The network is a place for employers to post jobs.

Your Portfolio

It’s normal nowadays for people to display their wares on an online portfolio. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a carpenter or a computer programmer, you can put your produce online in a gallery or it could be a self-serving demonstration (in the case of a programmer or web designer). A demo says much more than words alone ever could.

Application Analysis

Not all job applications take the traditional advert–CV–interview path. For many jobs, especially in the middle or lower echelons of a company, the application form will be completed online. But this isn’t only for speed and cost reductions. The data that candidates input might be sent straight to a database to be analysed to produce a shortlist based on the stats you put in. It might seem like a brutal filter – and no doubt some good candidates will be rejected – but when even low-grade jobs can expect hundreds of applications, it’s the only way employers can efficiently do it.

It’s Not All Electronic

While it might seem that the whole process of candidate selection is managed electronically, some things will never change. So expect to be grilled at an interview … although it might well be in a local cafe or over Skype.

Samuel-James McLoughlin is Press and Communications Officer at hronline and has over 15 years’ experience in the field. He has worked in HR for the last 5 years and has been with hronline since its launch in 2013.

Doing Agile Project Management With Scrum

“What does the game of rugby and modern management techniques have in common?” one may ask! If you are into ‘Agile Project Management’ and use ‘Scrum,’ you already know the answer. It is interesting to see, how rugby has inspired one of the most time-effective and cost-efficient management techniques of the day. Agile Project Management, is a specialized area of project management. Here, the resources and budgets are fixed variables; however, it is a more open ended approach compared to regular project management. It enables managers to optimally utilize resources and create products and services, which meet customer requirements, more satisfactorily and profitably.

A Brief History

First conceptualized in 1986, by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, Agile Project Management, is based on the approach rugby players’ use. Just like rugby players constantly assess and reassess situations, altering their strategies and responses at different points of time during a game, to score against the opponent team; likewise, managers through this highly collaborative method – use repetitive deliveries and customer feedback at different stages of a project, to reassess and rework on ‘a product or service being developed.’ The process is repeated until the product is improved, refined and becomes completely market ready.

‘Scrum,’ a software development framework, is used in Agile Project Management, to manage projects where software related products or applications are being designed. It allows the formation of self-organizing teams by enabling co-location of all team members, and promotes verbal communication across team members and disciplines in a project. The term ‘Scrum’ again owes its origin to the game of rugby, in which, it is the shorter version of the word –‘scrummage;’ and refers to the manner of restarting play in rugby football. It is popular especially in the IT industry, where the nature of projects or ‘products being developed’ – is comparatively newer, more innovative and highly complex. Since these are too difficult to comprehend before being tested out, they are allowed to evolve gradually.

Scrum Terminologies

There exists in Agile Project Management, an interdependence of a sequence of activities, where one set of activities is affected by the other. The final product is the outcome of a series of repetitive deliveries with short deadlines. Delivery cycles are referred to in ‘Scrum’ lingo, as ‘sprints’ and each ‘sprint’ varies from a week to a month, though usually a fortnight is its normal duration. “…reviewing each sprint before moving to the next means that testing is conducted throughout the process, which allows teams to change the scope or direction of the project at any point,” states Daria Kelly Uhlig, emphasizing on the advantage of using this technique.

Peculiar as it sounds, the different levels of project stakeholders in Agile Project Management using Scrum, are referred to as –‘pigs’ and ‘chickens!’ Here ‘pigs’ represent the ‘Scrum team’ who perform core functions like producing the product. The Scrum team generally has a Product Owner, a Development team and a Scrum Master. On the other hand ‘chickens’ represent the ‘Supplementary team,’ whose roles are not that important but are never the less, necessary.

The usage of both these terms is derived from ‘The Chicken and the Pig’ fable, in which different levels of commitment are shown, through the examples of a pig and a chicken. “When producing a dish made of ham and eggs, the pig provides the ham which requires his sacrifice and the chicken provides the eggs which are not difficult to produce. Thus the pig is really committed in that dish while the chicken is only involved, yet both are needed to produce the dish,” the Wikipedia page on the story, notes.

Agile Project Management with Scrum, is a more flexible approach to project management. It uses open, instant and regular communication and focuses on greater team involvement and client participation. Here, having a knack for problem solving, negotiation and communication is necessary and precedence is given to common sense over written policy. “Scrum is designed to optimize team satisfaction and productivity, product quality, responsiveness to customers, and transparency for stakeholders. The key practices that enable these benefits include de-emphasizing work on non-deliverable items, implementing and finishing each Story in a Sprint Backlog in rank order, working in short Sprints of 2-4 weeks, and making past, present, and future project information available to all stakeholders,” concludes Kevin Thompson on cPrime.com.  

Featured images:

This article was written by Hugh Swift a management expert and corporate trainer, who conducts workshops on Agile Project Management.

Organisational culture – why bother?

Organisations to date are still grappling with the complexities of defining a common organisational purpose. This becomes even more complicated during a business acquisition or merger, especially when there are major differences in organisational values and behaviours. This is also evident when large multi-national companies enter less mature markets and quickly discover that local
organisations have their own unique way of doing business in that particular business environment. Sometimes what is deemed ‘unacceptable’ in some markets is quite ‘acceptable’ somewhere else. This is a constant challenge facing all types of organisations globally. Culture will ultimately define a company’s belief system and expectations for the future, and will invariably influence success or failure in a highly competitive global marketplace.
As a result of greater focus on ‘cultural fit’ and all things related, Private Equity firms are now investing considerable time and resources to better understand a target company’s organisational dynamics before concluding any deal. This could be a major factor in realising value from the deal down the line. A company that has a defined philosophy for doing business will more likely have a
better strategic vision, which in turn makes it more appealing to investors, internal and external talent pools and customers alike. An organisation’s culture could either make it or break it over the long term. Thus, in attempting to create a high performance organisation, it becomes vital for senior leadership to define the culture required for success, or in the case of M&A’s, creating a vision for the future that will aim to bring the best of both organisational cultures together to deliver maximum value for all stakeholders. It is at this point that a company’s senior leadership team have an opportunity to etch themselves in corporate history and create the environment for making the company highly successful. Senior executives need to grasp this opportunity by ensuring they live
the values of the organisation and become effective role models for the rest of the organisation to follow. Doing this effectively at the top of the hierarchy instils confidence and trust in the layers below and has a mesmerising effect on motivating the wider workforce.
It is never an easy task to create or change cultural identity however with the added pressure of globalisation, the race for good talent and ever changing technological advancement, global organisations cannot afford not to invest in creating distinct cultural identities. Companies around the world are investing heavily on optimising business performance. Process and technology change alone will not make a difference unless there has been a carefully thought out people change strategy which is aligned to the strategic vision of the organisation. Many transformation efforts fail due to poor people change planning. On some large programmes it is often evident that ‘lip-service’ is paid to the impact of change on people and in many cases prevents the successful adoption of new ways of working. People need to be engaged early, to instil the values of trust and integrity. Many organisations leave it too late and lose immense credibility internally as well as externally as information starts to leak everywhere. A company serious about reputation and brand attractiveness will have as part of its organisational DNA, clear values around trust, transparency and commitment to treating people with due care and not just paying ‘lip-service’ to employee consultation. In conclusion, all aspects of transformational change require clear linkage to the corporate strategy of the organisation. This is often neglected and in many cases leads to the failure of the change
initiative, wasting valuable time, resources and energy. It is therefore vital for companies to establish the right type of culture, be it for the purposes of expanding into new emerging markets, M&A’s or a brand new start up looking to establish a foothold in the open market. A well-defined organisational culture provides the starting point for all stakeholders to feel part of something unique. This only encourages greater differentiation between competing organisations and its influence over products, services, quality and the ability to attract specific talent pools.

Vellendra Sannasy is an Organisational Change Professional with extensive experience in leading strategic and operational business change. Vellendra has worked with global organisations in the UK, US, Asia and South Africa, with a great appreciation for cultural
diversity and different ways of working. He is also the Founder of StratChange Consulting, which is a niche consultancy, providing strategic and operational guidance to C Suite Executives and Senior Management teams undergoing complex organisational change.