Dr. Helen Ofosu

01/30/2018

HR Consultant and Career Coach
Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Helen Ofosu’s interests and expertise in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology inform her impassioned work as an HR Consultant and Career Coach. She helps individual clients, organizations and HR departments better understand the psychological aspects that influence career satisfaction and that can also be useful in placing the right person in the right job. As she states, “better hiring includes being more intentional about identifying the knowledge, experience and soft skills that are appropriate for the role – and then measuring them reliably and accurately”.

BMS

You have a wonderful phrase to describe your work and business, “More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.” Can you comment on the need for deeper perspectives and strategies in career counselling?

HO

My tagline reflects the emphasis that I place on psychological aspects related to a person’s career satisfaction. Things like values, self-esteem, leadership, self-confidence, and one’s general psychological profile and tendencies all relate to a person’s career choices and ultimately, their work performance. In my opinion, these elements are important to consider when engaging in career development. When these things are well understood, the mechanics of resumes, cover letters, interviews, etc. fall into place much easier.

BMS

You have written on the topic of automation and the impact of technology on the workplace and workforce. You have commented that soft skills are harder to develop and “nearly impossible to assign to technology”. Soft skills encompass our innate capacities, accumulated knowledge, our continuous experiencing, our “felt” living. In your opinion, how can workplaces, and HR departments specifically, turn their attention to the value and strength of soft skills?

HO

I think that going forward these soft skills will become more and more important in high-performing organizations. So far, most hiring processes have paid more attention to job applicants’ knowledge and relevant work experience during the hiring process.

While I agree that knowledge and experience are important, I believe that most employers have focused on them during the hiring process because it’s easier and more straightforward to measure them than it is to measure soft skills. There’s something satisfying about measuring things that are concrete and seem objective.

It’s easy for most normal HR people to select somebody who has the right degree, diploma, or designation and has worked in the field for a certain number of years. It’s much tougher to reliably and accurately measure things like initiative, conscientiousness, judgment, or teamwork and cooperation. These soft skills have an enormous impact on how well someone can apply their knowledge and experience on the job. Consequently, these soft skills affect how well someone will actually perform a job. In addition to these soft skills being harder to measure unless you have specialized training to do so, it is also very difficult … and awkward to develop these soft skills in an employee who is lacking them.

BMS

In addition to the extensive work you do in career counselling, you are also an HR Consultant. What is your advice for “better” hiring? How would define “better”?

HO

In this era where most businesses/organizations are trying to cut costs and improve their bottom line, an important aspect of ‘better hiring’ includes hiring that is cost-effective.

Let me explain. When a company dedicates time and money (that is, salary dollars) to designing a job posting, promoting it, screening applicants, conducting preliminary interviews possibly by phone or video, and then conducting longer, more in-depth face-to-face interviews, then checks references, negotiates the letter of offer, and trains/ onboards somebody it is awful when that employee needs to be fired after three to six months. When this happens, the entire process restarts from the point of advertising the position. This reflects a terrible waste of time and money while also having a negative impact on morale.

In my opinion, better hiring includes being more intentional about identifying the knowledge, experience, and soft skills that are appropriate for the role – and then measuring them reliably and accurately. This approach helps ensure that the right people are hired for the right jobs.