GapLet’s kick this off on a cynical note: are you a job seeker looking for entry-level employment? Then you should know that there’s a good chance you don’t have the skills and competencies that your potential managers want you to have.

This is according to new research from software company Instructure, the maker of popular learning management system (LMS) Canvas. The company surveyed 781 managers and found, among other things, that:

  • a scant 8 percent of managers said entry-level employees were “very prepared to contribute immediately at work”;
  • when hiring entry-level employees, managers prefer to focus on candidates’ attributes — things like professionalism, work ethic, and time management — rather than their job-specific skills;
  • and that many managers feel their organizations’ training programs are not entirely effective when it comes to “improving vital attributes” like teamwork, interpersonal communication, and critical thinking/problem solving.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find an infographic that details the findings of Instructure’s study, but before that, I offer this quick Q&A with Instructure as a deeper dive into the study itself. Any ideas why there seems to be such a disparity between what managers want and what new hires can offer?

Instructure: I think managers are interested in hiring for soft skills because they think those skills are nearly impossible to train. However, I think entry-level employees have been taught to focus so much on building up their technical skill set[s] before entering the workforce that it’s likely they forget to emphasize fundamental attributes that previous generations have valued. It seems that differing value sets could account for why there’s such a disparity between what managers are looking for and what new hires are bringing to the table.

RC: Few managers believe their training is effective in improving vital attributes. Any advice on how managers might begin to improve their training processes?

Inst: HR professionals should take a close look at their training practices to see where they can make meaningful improvements. The training processes that worked in a business 10 or 15 years ago may not be relevant today. Managers will need to look for new tools that can engage entry-level employees and millennials and motivate them to make the changes needed for success. They also need ensure that training is a bi-directional process; most companies just push learning out and then have no clue how it’s being received by employees. It’s critical to ensure that employees’ reaction[s] to training — as well as company mission, vision, values, goals, policies, and procedures — [are] collected and analyzed. This enables managers to diagnose problem areas and remediate accordingly. 

RC: A lot of managers rely on “on-the-job” training. Is that really the most effective method, or should they look to other methods of training (especially considering that many managers don’t feel their training processes are effective)?

Inst: The data shows that there’s certainly room for improvement in how managers are training employees, but I don’t think that means businesses should do away with on-the-job training altogether. Every business is different, so managers should look at what they can do to enhance the training processes they already have in place, or to facilitate on-the-job training in more effective and meaningful ways that keep employees engaged. At Instructure, for instance, we’re hoping to help managers do that through our corporate learning and engagement platform called Bridge.


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