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Hire for Social Skills

Your Christian school will have a competitive advantage when you hire individuals with well-developed social skills.  It is certainly important to have an innovative idea but every great idea must be implemented, accepted by those your serve, and maintained.  You need people who can conceive of an innovation and collaborate with others to implement the innovations that provide students value and competitive advantages.

The first step is to have an innovative idea.  Whether anyone will listen to the idea depends on who presents it and how.  Success depends on the social skills of the presenter.  If the idea gains the necessary support, implementation is possible.

Implementation depends on teamwork (more social skills) and a leader (more social skills).  The cost of implementation depends in part on the social skills of each team member and the team’s ability to work collaboratively and collaborate with others.  Strong teams create mission sustainability.

The acceptance of those who will use the innovation depends heavily on the innovation’s design.  We have all had experience with great ideas that were created without empathy for those who were going to use it.  The best technical design is usually the lowest cost and least comfortable to use.  It is also often the design that has minimal appeal to those who must use it or benefit from it.  Good social skills, especially empathy for others, lowers the risk of this happening.

Even though the socially awkward are usually very nice people, it is rare to find a socially awkward person who fits well in a team or is easy to work with.  At first glance, it often appears that the socially awkward are less expensive to hire.  They typically demand a lower salary.  However, they cost more to train and they often lower the productivity of others.  It is easier to teach people technical skills than social skills.  In addition, it is harder to move the socially awkward from one team to another, which lowers their utility factor.

As automation has increased, fewer workers work behind the scenes. Therefore, most (all?) of your staff members have some contact with outsiders.  Their social skills contribute to your Christian school’s reputation. In addition, one should presume that every non-donor is a prospective donor.  Staff members who are socially adept enough to enhance the possibility that someone might want to become a donor makes a significant contribution to the potential sustainability of your funding stream.

Most of your student-serving work is dynamic.  The work is tailored for each student.  This insulates the work from automation but makes interpersonal skills critical to success.

Similarly, the jobs at the lower end of the wage scale require the same interpersonal skills because they also require direct contact with the public, staff, students, and parents.  Your students need the best possible mentors and role models.  Your students’ interpersonal skills are critical to acquiring and retaining employment as well as enjoying upward mobility in their lives.  One of the best ways to perfect one’s skills is to teach others.  When your staff share their social skills with your students everyone grows and benefits.

Next Step:

Emphasize social skills over technical skills and training when hiring

Develop an internal process for polishing social skills within your school

Engage in social skills transfer from your staff to your students

There is a natural increase in the social skills of your students through their interaction with your staff.  When it becomes intentional, it will increase the depth and breadth for both individuals.  Having a measurement system that captures the change in the student’s skills from their entry into and exit from your program will help to make the process intentional.  It will also provide one more important and differentiate success measure to share with donors, the community, and other supporters.

An emphasis on social skills is one more important ingredient in your school’s competitive mix.

Take It Further:

Consider social skills when recruiting board candidates

Ask your board to intentionally develop the social skills of its members since they are ambassadors to your community and frequently meet with donors, other volunteers, parents, and staff members

Read what David Deming of Harvard University has to say about the importance of social skills and our evolving labor market

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