Power line technician
students at Cape Fear
ohn Kinney has seen many changes during his 22 years in the
insurance industry. He believes one of the most dramatic shifts
that has occurred over the last decade or so has been the rise in
“People want what we describe as an Amazon-like experience
when they deal with us,” says Kinney, head of claims for national
insurance company The Hartford.
Kinney is referring to how Amazon and other large companies have
transformed the consumer experience by using technology to deliver
highly personalized, on-demand service. Because consumers are used to getting
what they want, when they want it, they have come to expect the same level of
service from all of their daily interactions.
This shift in expectations has made problem solving and interpersonal
skills, which have always been valued to some degree, even more critical.
“Not only must our claims employees satisfy the technical aspects of the job,
but they also have to serve as the face of our company in people’s time of need,”
Kinney says. “How do we provide a level of service to our customers that will
encourage them to promote our brand to their friends and family? You need
somebody who is really good at building rapport.”
Kinney isn’t alone in his assessment. Employers across a wide variety of
industries say the so-called “soft” skills such as problem solving, critical think-
ing, communication and collaboration have grown in importance as rapid
advancements in technology have transformed their operations.
According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and
Employers, problem solving and the ability to work well in a team are the attributes that employers most desire among new hires (see sidebar). Yet, these are
often the skills that employers struggle the most to fill.
Employers are looking to community
colleges for help in teaching soft skills
BY DENNIS PIERCE