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What Hard Skill Do Recent Graduates Lack More Than Any Other?


Thu Oct 06 2016

What Hard Skill Do Recent Graduates Lack More Than Any Other?

No, it’s not data analysis, industry-specific software skills, or coding. According to PayScale’s 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness report, the most challenging hard skill to find among recent college graduates is writing proficiency. Per the report, 44 percent of managers ranked this skill among their most difficult to find, followed by public speaking at 39 percent. 

We shouldn’t be surprised. Even students who pursue degrees in the arts and humanities don’t always receive adequate training to write for professional audiences. In school they usually learn to write in an academic style; however, many professional writing styles require different techniques. Mastering an industry’s or organization’s rules and style takes time and training, which usually doesn’t happen until after students have entered the workforce. 


According to PayScale’s report, graduates also have difficulty with soft skills directly related to writing: 60 percent of managers struggle to find graduates with critical thinking skills, and 46 percent struggle to find ones with sufficient communication skills.  All these skills play an important role in determining organizational success. According to the Houston Chronicle, each has its own benefits: 

All three of these skills are highly interrelated, meaning that training employees in writing can help them with the others. For instance, writing training helps employees articulate more critical thoughts, and thinking critically can help them communicate more effectively by analyzing different situations.  

Here are a few ideas on how talent development professionals can improve recent graduates’ writing skills: 

  • Start an office book club. Good readers generally make good writers, and book discussions also give employees a chance to practice their critical thinking skills in front of an audience.

  • Hold workshops focused on the differences between academic and professional writing styles. Put samples of the two styles side by side and ask trainees to point out the differences. 

  • Provide free online tools to help improve their writing. Going beyond the dictionary and thesaurus, today’s tools include digital clarity editors, how-to guides, and spell-checking browser extensions. 

  • Browse the ATD Buyer’s Guide Directory to find vendors who specialize in writing instruction.

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