Strategic HR

Survey Reveals Gaps in Skills Needed for Career Success

Entry-level employees are becoming less proficient in the skills most needed to succeed in today’s workplace, according to a recent national survey of Human Resources (HR) managers responsible for hiring.


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The survey, sponsored by early education provider Primrose Schools®, revealed skills like adaptability, teamwork, and problem solving are critical to workplace success. Yet, 70% of seasoned HR managers report that entry-level employees are rarely proficient in these skills.

According to the survey, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, self-control, adaptability, and working memory—collectively referred to by educators as executive function skills—are more highly valued in entry-level candidates than technical abilities, academic background, and other factors. And while respondents state that entry-level employees are rarely proficient in these skills, two-thirds say hiring entry-level employees with good executive function skills is a top priority for their company’s long-term success.

Research indicates that these skills will only become more valued in our rapidly changing world. A Hay Group study cited by Forbes shows that 90% of employers worldwide believe skills like self-control and teamwork will become increasingly important as society evolves. Unfortunately, one in four HR managers surveyed says entry-level employees are becoming less proficient in these skills over time, and the majority of those surveyed agree executive function skills are difficult to teach.

Capitalizing on the rapid brain growth that takes place during the first 5 years of life may offer the solution. The Harvard Center on the Developing Child reports that children’s early life experiences influence their capacity for executive function skills, and laying the foundation for such skills is one of the most important tasks of the early childhood years.

“The executive function skills that our globalized world demands—from thinking critically to the cognitive flexibility that allows us to empathize with others—have their foundational roots in early childhood,” said Dr. Laura Jana, Pediatrician and Author of The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow, among other books—said in a press release. “Our brains are more flexible in early childhood than any other time in life, presenting parents, caregivers and teachers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help shape children’s minds and develop lifelong pathways to success.”

Early education providers therefore play an important role in the development of executive function skills. “Early educators have the privilege of partnering with parents during their child’s most important years for learning, and that comes with great responsibility,” said Gloria Julius, Ed.D., Vice President of education for Primrose Schools. “At Primrose, lessons and activities that encourage the development of crucial executive function skills are incorporated into children’s daily classroom experiences. As children work together on a task or are prompted by their teachers to ask questions, they are actually developing the skills they need to successfully navigate our ever-changing world.”

To learn more about the results of the survey sponsored by Primrose Schools, click here.