Soft skills don't just predict a candidate's job performance; they also predict culture fit, which is just as important, says Kuan-Thye (KT) Sean, FedEx Express's Managing Director of Employee Experience Design and Implementation in the Asia Pacific region. For a look at some of the best practices that power FedEx's people management approach, People Matters asked her how she and her team go about evaluating and leveraging soft skills; here's what she shared.
Could you share a bit about the soft skills you look for in candidates, both internal and external?
FedEx has an Equal Employment opportunity policy. We post all jobs internally for all employees first to try filling the position internally. If no one meets the eligibility criteria, FedEx will look to hire someone from outside the organisation. As such, more than 80 percent of the management positions are promoted from within.
For external recruitment, we have structured interview questions to test candidates on soft skills such as adaptability, interpersonal skills and more. In our assessments, we pose situational questions that will indicate a candidate's ability to adapt, agility in learning, and attitude towards failure that is indicative of their growth mindset.
In your experience, what are some ways of evaluating candidates' soft skills that have worked well?
We do not believe in asking hypothetical questions because people can make their answers up. Instead, we practice what we call a behavioural interview conducted in a structured manner where we pick certain competencies such as adaptability, collaboration, etc.. These soft skills are selected based on actual problems that our employees have to tackle on the job, so questions are curated based on the skills we need our candidates to have, as opposed to hard skills that can be developed on the job and through the many training sessions we have in place.
While the person-to-job fit is important, the person-to-culture fit is equally important.
We assess person-to-culture fit from the soft skill answers that we pick up from the interview questions – meaning it's not just about what they achieve but the process of how they achieved.
Which soft skills do you find are most correlated to people's performance and career advancement? Could you share some thoughts on why these particular skills stand out?
Collaboration within teams, as well as the courage and willingness to speak up is also essential. A person can be brilliant but might be afraid to speak up because of the organizational hierarchy. Creativity is another necessary skill as we value innovation. Employees are also given incentives to enrol in courses and training like design thinking skills and quality-driven management to further their careers and upskill regularly.
The FedEx culture is caring, emphasises order, values result in learning, and encourages respect. For our teams, we encourage collaboration across functions for better results and outcomes for our business and our customers.
We constantly find opportunities for staff to have their voices heard and give them a platform to collaborate and demonstrate emerging leadership.
With the proliferation of training and assessment tools today, how do you see technology being leveraged to develop the soft skills critical to the business?
The FedEx learning and development programme is governed by the 70:20:10 model.
70 percent of learning is by doing, 20 percent is from social interactions, and the remaining 10 percent is down to formal training – and all of these aspects are what we bring to our employees.
In terms of formal training, FedEx has a curated portal called the Learning Arena, where employees have access to training and webinars within areas and skills that they can explore to develop – skills like design thinking, communication, or adaptability.
Social interactions wise, FedEx has a week dedicated to different leaders to share their areas of expertise.
But the best way to learn is by practising on the job; hence we encourage employees to try and implement what they learn from the Learning Arena and implement it in their everyday job. As a result, we have many examples of successful job transfers across functions wherein employees have taken on opportunities to grow and demonstrate their skills in different capacities.
Finally, with the growing role that data and analytics play in talent management today, what are your thoughts on balancing the quantification of soft skills with the "human factor" involved in these skills?
We value data because it helps us make more informed decisions. It takes the uncertainty out of decision making.
But data also needs to be supplemented by human analysis and contextualising the trends to our workplace and environment.
We need intellect and sensitivity to piece information together to make sense of that information and find ways to leverage that to benefit our people and our business. Data is critical to plan for the future and predict risks through analysis and have contingencies in place. This is how at FedEx, we leverage data and technology to be more productive, insightful and more predictive to make better decisions.