When it comes to interviewing a new hire, much attention is given to who they are as a person, their demonstration of soft skills, and their perceived cultural fit. This is certainly true in jobs where hard skills can be taught and are not a technical or a mandatory requirement.
Demonstrated hard skills, even if relatable to a different job, are also crucial traits to test when hiring new employees. Let’s say the candidate meets the criteria needed. There is still a responsibility to train them on the foundational hard skills needed to perform in the specific job you’ve hired them for. Even if they have done that type of job in the past, products, services, policies, and processes are unique to each company.
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Hard Skills in the Workplace
Hard skills define the specific prerequisites needed for a job, which typically include the desired knowledge and facts needed for base-level success. Having this foundation gives employees confidence that they have the know-how to do their job well and be productive. For example, sales proficiency calls for product knowledge. Finance managers requires software training and formal accounting qualifications. Healthcare professionals require a baseline knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Each industry — no matter how people-centric or service-oriented it may be — expects mastery of hard knowledge from the outset.
Usually, the more hard skills a professional has, the more valuable they are to a company. In some job functions, if a candidate’s people skills are suited to the role, a company may look past the absence of certain hard skills and decide it’s willing to invest the time and resources needed to get them up to speed. This is an ideal scenario because hard skills are extremely teachable — especially through repetition.
Teaching Hard Skills
According to Learning Scientist/Research Fellow Todd Maddox Ph.D. of Amalgam Insights, hard skills learning is mediated by the cognitive skills learning system in the brain, which has evolved to hold knowledge and facts that tie into specific situations. He refers to this as the “what” system of the brain because it learns the needed information.
In one of his papers, he explains that cognitive skill learning is mediated by the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and associated medial temporal lobe structures, and relies heavily on working memory and attention. It’s also highly susceptible to forgetting, so the goal is to use mental repetition and rehearsal to transfer information from short-term memory to long-term.
Because the cognitive skills learning system relies heavily on working memory and attention, it’s important for learning content to be delivered in small amounts within the learner’s comprehensive capabilities. Microlearning addresses this by utilizing brief 2- to 3-minute learning sessions that are within learners’ attentional focus.
Using a best-practice mobile microlearning platform like Qstream, this is done in two ways. First, Qstream incorporates the testing effect with all of its training content. Testing is one of the best ways to identify areas of strength and weakness, and the act of testing serves as an additional training tool. Secondly, Qstream leverages interval reinforcement principles (also called spaced training) to facilitate mental repetition, transfer information to long-term memory, and fight against the forgetting curve.
Finding a Balance
Both hard skills and soft skills are vital to success in the workplace, so focusing on the development of both simultaneously will upskill employees and improve their proficiency and effectiveness. The best employee is without a doubt a well-rounded one, but it starts with using microlearning to teach foundational hard skills so they have the baseline knowledge needed to perform at their best.
To learn more about brain science in the corporate learning environment, as well as how to best train hard skills, download this analyst insights whitepaper, authored by Maddox: “Leveraging Learning Science - How Qstream’s Mobile Microlearning Solution Changes Behavior.”