There was a very interesting piece that appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle written by Melvin Everson who is the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development for the state of Georgia. His premise is that people get hired for apptitude, or their hard skills, and get fired for attitude. He said he has visited many businesses in Georgia and he has learned that many people who are let go from their jobs are let go because of their lack of “soft skills”, especially the inability to work well with others. He defines “soft skills” as:
- productive interaction with co-workers and clients
- proper dress
- communication and listening skills
- willingness to learn and take on new responsibilities
- serving as a team player
- showing up to work on time
- personal and professional attitude
Mr. Emerson said that we face important decisions as both a culture and as individuals. As a culture are we going to foster an environment that fosters interpersonal skills for the workplace? As individuals, will we commit to doing not only a good job, but a good job with a good attitude.
I agree with Mr. Emerson that these are indeed pressing questions and indicate some failures on a couple of different levels. On the cultural level as parents and educators we are not teaching the value of hard work, of showing up on time, and the other things that make someone a successful employee. We have also fostered for many people an environment that relieves them of having to accept personal responsibility. In other cases we have stripped people of the opportunity to learn the value of achievement. Thus when we get to the personal level people entering the workforce do not really “get” why it is important to show up on time and get work done. In Georgia many employers are happy for the doctrine of “employment-at-will” because it helps them get rid of “attitude problems.”
But in addition to Mr. Emerson’s two questions I think there is a third element he did not mention. I think businesses have an obligation to try to create “engaging” workplaces, places where people do want to work, show up on time, learn new skills and be successful. These places need to “reward” employees by providing stimulating work environments in addition to the compensation and benefits that most of us expect. Companies have this obligation not for just the employees but for all the “shareholders” of the company. Part of this obligation may include training that helps overcome the shortcomings of the cultural short sightedness we witness. Until we all accept responsibility for these issues we will not overcome the malaise in our economy.