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Report puts premium on people skills

Posted: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Applicants wait to be interviewed at a job fair at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia on Feb. 19. A recent report shows that while training and work experience are paramount, employers still place a premium on people skills.

 

When making hiring decisions, many companies appear to be looking at more than an applicant’s job history or educational background.

Workers, both employed or seeking employment, believe that past experience and critical-thinking skills are given more weight when hiring decisions are made, but employers reported people management and communication skills even higher.

But while numerous reports have cited the need for a retrained workforce, a recent study found that Los Angeles-area employers “place a premium on employees with strong interpersonal communication and teamwork abilities.”

Employers cited those traits as the top-two skill sets they look for in potential employees, noting perhaps a paradigm shift in which  employers have had to learn how to operate a company with fewer employers during the economic downturn.

A recent study, “Life in the 21st Century Workforce,” was conducted by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and University of Phoenix.

“We know that a quality education system is paramount to meeting Los Angeles’ future workforce needs, and making our region a cornerstone of the 21st-century global economy,” said Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Study results, however, provided deeper insight into the skills and qualities that employers are looking for when making hiring and promotion decisions, and how that differs from opinions held by workers, Toebben said.

While employers feel people-management and communication skills are as important as past work experience.

People management and communication skills were rated as critical factors by 38 percent of the employers when hiring, and 36 percent said past work experience was the most important factor.

Forty-three percent of workers believed past work experience was the most important factor when hiring, but also recognized that people skills will allow them to move forward in their careers once they’ve been hired by a company.
Education

Also among the key findings of the study was that three-quarters of both L.A.-area employers, and employees agree education is critical to ensuring workers have the skills required to advance.

Sixty-three percent of employers said they are more likely to promote an employee with a college degree.

“This research underscores that continuing education is vital for the success of employers and individuals in the workplace.

It also provides us with another tool to tailor our degree programs to ensure students are learning real-world skills to help them succeed,” said Dr. Bill Pepicello, president of University of Phoenix.

A majority of employers said their company pays for a portion or all of an employee’s education.

Practical skills

Employers also said the most important skill set is one in which practical learning experiences are learned through a post-secondary degree program.

Practical learning was agreed upon as an important aspect of a post-secondary degree program, with 23 percent of employers emphasizing the need for practical learning experiences that emphasize real life problems, and 18 percent stressing the importance of people-management and communication skills.

Employees agreed that practical learning experiences are important, but only 16 percent believed they are most important.
Flexible class schedules in the evenings, weekends or online were considered key to 17 percent of the workforce and 16 percent of the employers agreed.

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