Passion for serving customers. Desire to learn. Social intelligence. Adaptability. Knowledge sharing skills.  Following today’s lackluster U.S. Jobs Report, it’s worth examining the trend towards hiring for skills as opposed to for specific knowledge.  These attributes topped the list of those most needed by tech support agents for the next three to five years, in a survey conducted by HDI and presented this morning at an Executive Connections breakfast during its 2014 Conference in Orlando, FL.  During conversations around the breakfast tables, tech support executives concurred that they are more often hiring for these soft skills than specific knowledge about the technology the agents will support.  The technology changes too quickly to matter.

With the rate of change in all areas of business, hiring for highly specific knowledge may be the wrong strategy. While specific knowledge can indicate aptitude for a certain area of business, it is less important in our data-rich, dynamic corporate environments than a passion for learning, communication skills, and a customer focus. Specific knowledge can be learned, most importantly at the moment of need—called the learning moment in Knowledge Management circles—and in the flow of the work being done.

Knowledge is dynamic. It evolves and changes. This is why broad Knowledge Management programs that seek to only capture and constrain knowledge in a knowledge base, without leveraging data from across the information ecosystem, have failed and continue to do so.  Building on the dynamic nature of knowledge and expertise, most organizational “expertise finding” programs fail for the same reason – expertise is not static.  Employees learn on the job, and continue to hone their expertise throughout their careers with your company, providing they are given the tools—the information—to do so, and within their own specific context.

Quoted in a Forbes article covering the Jobs Report this morning, staffing firm LaSalle Network’s CEO Tom Gimbel said that “job seekers have to stop looking for the job that is right for them” but rather look to develop the skills needed for the jobs that exist.Parallel advice for hiring managers might be: Hire for skills, but be sure that knowledge is easily accessible and relevant to the work at hand.

What skills are important to your organization?  How do you help skilled workers gain the knowledge they need, when they need it?