SOFT SKILLS TRUMP TECHNICAL SKILLS FOR SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS

Survey Shows Ability to Organize, Communicate and Collaborate More Prized Than Technical Talent

MENLO PARK, CA -- When hiring administrative staff, it’s tempting to focus on the technical expertise needed for the position, but a new survey shows that less tangible “soft” skills often are valued more.  Sixty-seven percent of human resources (HR) managers polled by OfficeTeam, HR.com and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said they would hire an applicant with strong soft skills whose technical abilities were lacking; only nine percent would hire someone who had strong technical expertise but weak interpersonal skills.  The overwhelming majority (93 percent) of HR managers felt technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills.

More than 300 administrative professionals and 400 HR managers took part in the study, which was released to coincide with Administrative Professionals Week (APW), April 22-28.  The full survey results are reported in Fitting In, Standing Out and Building Remarkable Work Teams, a resource guide available from OfficeTeam.  

“The results indicate the increasing complexity of the administrative function,” said Sandra P. Chandler CPS, IAAP 2006-07 international president.   “Today’s professionals often negotiate with vendors, plan meetings and special events, create presentations, and interview and supervise other employees.  While office technology skills are very important, excellent interpersonal abilities are invaluable and usually difficult to teach.”
 

The managers surveyed cited the following soft skills as being most in demand at their companies:* 

Organizational skills   87%
Verbal communication   81%
Teamwork and collaboration   78%
Problem solving   60%
Tact and diplomacy   59%
Business writing   48%
Analytical skills   45%
*Multiple responses were permitted.    

Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam, pointed out that while administrative professionals frequently focus on building technical expertise to advance their careers, they also should look at how well they work with others.  “The ability to collaborate and build consensus on projects distinguishes top performers.”

When asked which soft skills they would like to improve, IAAP members surveyed ranked analytical skills, verbal communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills above others.

With APW around the corner, now is an opportune time for managers to work with support staff to help them grow professionally, according to Chandler.  “Our research shows that administrative professionals appreciate more meaningful and long-lasting recognition.  To help support staff enhance their effectiveness, managers should provide them with the opportunity to attend professional conferences or take relevant courses,” Chandler said. 

OfficeTeam is the world’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals.  The company has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.officeteam.com.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals is the world’s largest association for administrative support staff, with nearly 600 chapters and approximately 40,000 members and affiliates worldwide.   For more information, visit
www.iaap-hq.org.

HR.com is the largest social network and online community of HR executives.  For more information, visit www.hr.com.


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