What are Essential Skills for Essential Workers?

May 21, 2020 Sarah Strahan

First Published on LinkedIn


In today’s uncertain environment, organizations face new mission-critical demands. Of utmost importance is the need to meet consumer demand, maintain excellent customer service, and reduce operational risks through the disruption we are facing and beyond. Talent managers must create strategies to ensure the workforce is aligned to these goals and for some this means finding alternative methods of quickly hiring essential workers.

At a high level, unemployment figures are rising, but in some sectors – such as those that provide essential services – the need to hire quickly and at scale has increased, as consumer needs have dramatically changed. The shopping experience, for instance, poses new challenges for essential retailers, distributors, and delivery providers. How can grocers ensure their customers can put food on the table? How can pharmacies keep their customers’ medicine cabinets filled? How can retailers ensure their goods make it out for delivery and onto porches in a timely manner?

The answer, plain and simple, comes down to putting competent people on the frontlines. In other words, finding employees who will show up, learn quickly, get the job done, and work well with others in the process.

What Does Competent Look Like?

A clear need has emerged in these industries: assessing for essential skills to hire productive workers efficiently. Aon’s research has found five essential skills to be predictive of success across sectors and roles:

Dependability measures the extent to which a person is reliable and dependable and follows through on commitments. Those with a high score on Dependability are likely to:

  • Report to work on time
  • Finish tasks within required timeframes
  • Follow rules, procedures, and safety protocols
  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic

Flexibility refers to being adaptable in one’s approach to work and comfortable with doing something new. Those with a high score on Flexibility are likely to:

  • Shift easily between activities and tasks as needed
  • Adapt or modify their behavior based on the current situation
  • Be open-minded to new people or ideas
  • Continually evolve their opinions and approaches

Willingness to Learn measures the extent to which someone is learning-oriented and focused on self-improvement. Those with a high score on Willingness to Learn are likely to:

  • Learn and maintain knowledge of procedures, rules, and policies
  • Be able to use technology to accomplish work tasks
  • Enjoy learning and teaching others
  • Be confident in their ability to improve and master new skills.

Decisiveness refers to an individual’s ability to get work done in conjunction with others, by being socially confident and sharing information. Those with a high score on Decisiveness are likely to:

  • Approach others and engage in conversation when needed
  • Ensure others follow proper rules and procedures
  • Speak up to address issues or violations
  • Make decisions as needed to carry out work

Cooperativeness measures the extent to which a person adopts a team-oriented set of behaviors. Those with a high score on Cooperativeness are likely to:

  • Feel content working alongside other team members or helping customers
  • Work collaboratively and build consensus
  • Treat coworkers and customers with consideration, politeness and respect
  • Establish and maintain relationships that allow for the productive exchange of information

How to Measure Essential Skills

Fortunately, today’s talent assessments can help you identify candidates who have the skills and motivations compatible with the demands of the role. Assessments help you quickly hire in volume without sacrificing quality. At Aon, we’ve created an off-the-shelf assessment to measure essential skills - the ADEPT-15® Essential Skills Assessment. Candidates can complete the assessment 24/7, in under 10 minutes, using any computer or mobile device. By narrowing down your applicant pool to those who are likely to succeed on the job, it offers a fast, frictionless way to expand your workforce and reduce risks associated with poor-quality hires. Poor-quality hires are always a liability, but the financial and brand stakes are higher now. And it’s a validated, science-backed solution that is fair and consistent across applicants.

Using a predictive tool like Aon’s Essential Skills Assessment means you can be confident you’re placing competent workers on the frontlines. By giving you the ability to identify those who are dependable, can learn quickly and work collaboratively, it helps you supply your company with the important people resources needed to provide excellent customer service and keep your business moving forward.

Assemble an Optimal Workforce

Hiring can be time-consuming and costly. And the stakes are higher now more than ever. But the right tools can streamline your process, save you time and money, and improve the quality of hires.

In fact, Aon research has found that candidates who score highly on the Essential Skills Assessment are:

  • 43% more likely to use judgment and make decisions
  • 20% more likely to learn and follow procedures
  • 24% more likely to work collaboratively
  • 26% more likely to be top performers
  • 22% more likely to work productively and drive results

Whether you need more store associates, pharmacy aides, delivery drivers, fulfilment personnel, or a range of other key workers, the common necessity is assembling a productive, professional, customer-focused workforce. Consider if now is the time to add valuable, easy-to-implement technology to your recruitment and selection strategy.

About the Author

Sarah Strahan

Sarah Strahan is a Senior Consultant and leads the North American Strategic Growth and Accounts team for Aon Assessment Solutions. She focuses on helping organizations advance their talent strategy through assessment, selection, and development programs. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and is located in Minneapolis, MN.

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