Employability is a central issue in the workforce market. With soft skills a central component of this concept, the question of how to reliably measure these skills arises. Psychometric tools provide an appropriate method of reporting a skills profile, Guillaume Demery, Doctor of Psychology and Designer and Developer of Psychometric Tools at Pearson TalentLens, sheds some light on the subject.
Employability: an HR issue placing the individual at the heart of the labour market
A concept studied for several decades; employability has been the subject of several definitions. Thus, for Hillage and Pollard (1998): “In simple terms, employability consists of being able to obtain and keep a job. More generally, employability is the ability to move independently in the labour market to realise one's potential through sustainable employment”. This very general definition makes it possible to understand the importance of the concept as a possibility of adapting to a constantly changing labour market.
However, it is interesting to know and understand the existing levers that allow access to this employability. A definition from Hinchcliffe (2001) states: “Employability is defined as having a set of skills, knowledge, and personal attributes that make a person more likely to be secure and successful in their chosen occupation”. Thanks to this definition, we understand that the individual is at the heart of employability, whether through his knowledge, the skills he has acquired and certain attributes that are specific to him, such as motivation or interests (Fenouillet, 2016).
Soft skills: essential skills to remain employable
It is possible to model the factors influencing employability. Thus, Pool and Sewell (2007) consider that experience, levels of knowledge, soft skills, emotional intelligence as well as development and training throughout the career are key factors, working together to improve employability.
As a result, it is an important issue both for new graduates entering the job market and for professionals in transition and looking either for retraining or career development within their company. (Harvey, 2001; Guilbert et al., 2016). While experience and training within a company are factors that favour professionals over young graduates, soft skills are essential and useful skills upon graduation (Andrew & Higson, 2008).
The essential soft skills to boost your employability
Behavioural skills can be generalised to most trades offered on the labour market and are essential for good employability. Beyond hard skills, namely business skills, we understand that employability is essentially based on the ability of individuals to be able to integrate and adapt to a rapidly changing labour market.
A non-exhaustive list of expected soft skills:
- Ability to cope with uncertainty
- Ability to work under pressure
- Ability to plan and think strategically
- Ability to communicate and interact with others, either in a team or through networking
- Skills in written and oral communication
- Skills in information and communication technologies
- Creativity and self-confidence
- Good self-management and time management skills
- A willingness to learn and take responsibility (Elias & Purcell, 2004).
Motivation: another factor to consider
Motivation referred to as “the reasons underlying behavior” (Guay et al., 2010, p. 712), and the “the attribute that moves us to do or not to do something” (Gredler, Broussard and Garrison., 2004, p. 106) is a non-negligible factor of employability, allowing, beyond the capacities of the individual, to understand the probability that he adheres and puts in place the appropriate behaviours to remain effective in his profession. It is therefore advisable to know the motivations and interests (Schiefele, 1991).
How to measure soft skills in order to support employability for individuals and companies?
Knowing the importance of employability in the labour market, it is necessary that reliable measures are put in place to help individuals, whether they are new graduates seeking to enter the labour market, professionals looking for retraining or development within their organisations, or companies looking for the best employability profiles in order to have long-term prospects with new recruits.
The advantage of psychometric tests
The evaluation of soft skills requires statistically valid and reliable tools, capable of measuring concepts that are sometimes difficult to observe (for example, the individual's ability to work under pressure). Psychometrics, which is concerned with the theoretical and practical aspects of psychological measurement (Chadha, 2009), is at this stage the most advanced discipline in the creation of such measures.
Several types of tools exist to measure these skills. For example, assessment tests are specifically constructed to measure work styles, those aspects of personality most important to success. Work styles can be thought of as an individual's typical patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour that can positively influence success in the world of work, and therefore employability, according to database studies. These working styles are organised around four major themes:
- the relationship to people, such as cooperation or leadership
- managing emotions, such as stress tolerance or self-control
- approach to work, such as initiative or reliability
- thinking style, such as innovative or analytical thinking.
Aptitude tests for a good measure of adaptability
Aptitude tests also make it possible to understand the adaptability of the individual in the world of work, to measure essential skills such as the ability to solve problems, verbal comprehension, the ability to correctly interpret data in order to place entrepreneurial strategies, or the ability to evaluate arguments and issue unbiased conclusions.
These psychometric tests based either on the classical test theory or, thanks to the digital evolution of these solutions, on the item response theory based on a probabilistic reasoning of the calculation of the level of aptitude (Edelen & Reeve, 2007), make it possible to have statistically valid and reliable measurements of these soft skills, or even of the motivations and interests of the individual.
Thanks to these methods, it is possible to establish an employability profile of the individual, so that they understand their levers on the labour market while recognising the skills that they can improve, guaranteeing the establishment of a training circuit adapted to the needs of the user.