Mike Rollings

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mike Rollings
Research VP
5 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Mike Rollings is VP of Gartner Research within the Professional Effectiveness team. His research discusses what IT professionals need to know about transformation, innovation, human behavior, contextual strategy, collaborative organizational change, communication and influence, and cross-discipline effectiveness . His research can be read by IT professionals with access to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research. Read Full Bio

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Employers ask for Facebook passwords but not social skills

by Mike Rollings  |  April 9, 2012  |  1 Comment

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about employers asking potential employees for their Facebook passwords. I heard yet another story about this over the weekend. While I don’t feel employers should be asking for social media passwords, this post is more about the irony that employers want social passwords but are not asking for social skills in job postings.

It is as alarming as it is ironic. As shown in my report “Job Postings – Hiring for IT’s Past” (published last week on Gartner.com), 95% of job postings sampled in this Gartner study pay little attention to social and other nontechnical skills. Six major job markets were part of the study and the results all point to a lack of interest in social skills. Although the postings ask for the latest technical skills, human engagement requirements were conspicuously missing. This lack of human engagement elements in job postings signals a problem for IT organizations that rely on poorly-defined job descriptions to entice engaged contributors into their workforce.

This illustrates a big problem with job postings – they really don’t ask for what organization’s need today. It evidently extends into the way that technical skills are being asked for too. Late last week I talked about the report in the post “IT job postings ask for the wrong thing”. One reader mentioned a job posting where the employer was looking for a SharePoint 2010 specialist with 10 years experience!  The jokes about job postings sometimes write themself, but in this case someone commented they were not advertising for a software engineer, but rather they were hoping to hire a Time Lord.

Most job postings are as inspiring as dry toast. Organizations need to look at the entire process that yields job postings that ask for the wrong things and lack the elements to attract engaged contributors —  the job postings and by association job descriptions, evaluations, and reward systems. We need to start appreciating and asking for nontechnical skills that tailor the specific nontechnical skill to the actual role. If you are a hiring manager, how many times have you done one or more of the following:

  • Used an existing job description as the basis for a new role because it existed in the right pay grade, made minor edits, and posted the opportunity?
  • Provide updates to the technical skills in job descriptions, but do not think about the non-technical skills you and your organization values, and why?
  • Ask for nontechnical skills in descriptions for managerial positions, but rarely ask for nontechnical skills for front-line staff? (By the way, stating “must have excellent written and communications skills” does not count. We’ve seen this tired phrase in job postings for decades.)
  • Not given any thought to how societal changes impact what people want from employment and their employer? (e.g. if individuals are looking for meaning, engagement, and the ability to contribute, then what does your outdated posting tell them? Does it attract them or scare them away?)
  • Speed through the posting process and rarely consider what traits you need in new employees in order to remain innovative, flexible and able to adapt?
  • Hire clones – “we’re missing an employee in this slot, better fill it with an identical skill set”

Many of us have done one or more of these things. The tyranny of delivery causes us to overlook systemic problems in the name of getting it off our plate. However, this is a problem that will bite you in the back later and needs your attention now. Organizations need to take a hard look at themselves and their practices, stop solely accentuating technical skills and write meaningful job descriptions that express how they value nontechnical skills. We need to think about the skills required for IT’s future and then attract the best people into those roles. We also need to provide meaningful guidance to IT professionals so they can prepare themselves for the future (either on their own or with the encouragement of their organizations to stay relevant in the IT job market).

Do you see a problem with job postings? Do you think that employers care about non-technical skills like influence, collaboration, persuasion, sharing contrarian ideas, and respectfully questioning status-quo? Do employers want engaged contributors or technical drones? Let’s hear from you.

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