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Why The LTC & Senior Living Workforce Needs Soft Skills (& How To Ensure Sure You Have Them)

Why Soft Skills Are Critical To The LTC & Senior Living WorkforceRecent research from Stanford Research Center, the Carnegie Foundation and Harvard University indicates that 85% of a new hire’s job success comes from having well-developed soft skills. Such skills are defined as character traits, personal attributes, and other non-technical abilities that help you work and communicate with other people. 

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 top skills survey, 57% of executives say soft skills are more important than hard skills, or technical abilities, because they cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence. And in an age where more and more jobs are being automated, soft skills, especially for those providing care, will become increasingly important.

One can argue that in senior care, where interaction between staff and residents is constant, soft skills such as effective communication, empathy, creativity and patience pretty heavily outweigh experience. And more and more employers are willing to hire those with the caring spirit and pay for training and certifications as needed. 

Here’s how soft skills can be identified during the recruiting process, and built upon by mentors and managers.

How To Identify Soft Skills In Senior Care Job Candidates

To identify soft skills in a candidate, recruiters need to establish a process and pay attention to the clues under their noses. Start by listing some of the soft skills you are looking for in your job description, along with the technical skills and certifications needed. Hopefully, this will discourage those that don't have the soft skills needed for the role from applying in the first place.

Then, do a thorough read of a recruit’s resume, paying attention for things such as volunteer work, continuing education focused on skills like mindfulness, team-building and self-improvement, and if they have participated in internships and mentorship programs — either as a mentor or mentee — at previous jobs. 

That thoroughness extends to reading cover letters. Candidates with exemplary soft skills will put thought into a cover letter, making it engaging within a of couple paragraphs and stating clearly why they are interested in a job opening, and they’ll indicate why they are best suited for the role.

Recruits with solid soft skills will also likely highlight their shortcomings, as well as what they are doing to work on strengthening those for the role for which they are applying. In a hiring landscape where there are almost as many cover letter and resume templates as there are candidates, these are the ones that rise to the top. 

Recruiters can further identify soft skills during the interview process by developing a list of questions to screen candidates for soft skills.

  • What do you find most important in a job? What was your reaction to being asked to do something you’d never done before or was outside your job purview, and what lessons did you learn from the experience?
  • How did you handle being asked to work with someone who was difficult to get along with?
  • Can you give some examples of taking initiative when a manager was unavailable? What were the outcomes and lessons learned?

Questions like these give recruiters a sense of a candidate’s willingness to collaborate with a team, find common ground with team members, take initiative and grow professionally and personally.

Many providers have even begun letting potential hires shadow on the floor as part of the interview process. Doing so allows them to observe the candidate interacting with employees and residents to determine if their soft skills fit the bill. 

Why The LTC & Senior Living Workforce Needs Soft Skills CTA

Assessing Soft Skills & Retaining Senior Care Workers

Soft skills can be learned. They can also be assessed regularly in work situations, and via mentorship programs, on-the-job training and performance reviews.

Soft skill development should be a part of any worthwhile mentorship program. As a new hire progresses in a mentorship program, do frequent check-ins to gauge how they are acclimating to the new work environment, what they like about their job responsibilities and what improvements they would make if they were in a position to do so. OnShift Engage’s new hire pulse surveys help track how a new hire is settling in and allow them to leave optional feedback on their experience and progress.

Of course, it’s important to let a new hire know where he or she can improve. Set goals for communication, collaboration, working with other team members and taking the lead in new initiatives.

Developing soft skills through mentorship programs and performance reviews will lay the foundation for best practices, build a solid senior care workforce and have a trickle-down effect that will improve employee retention and recruitment.

Success in any job starts with a solid foundation. Download our onboarding guide for senior care to boost new hire retention & success in the first 90 days.

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