BOSTON, Nov. 19, 2015—Writing, communication and organizational skills lead the list of “baseline skills” employers are having difficulty finding, according to “The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills,” a new study of job postings by Burning Glass Technologies.

When experts and politicians talk about the “skills gap” facing the American workforce, they usually mean specific technical skills, such as programming or welding. But Burning Glass has found that one in every three skills requested by employers is a baseline or soft skill such as communicating, being detail oriented, working well with others, or using basic productivity software like Microsoft Excel. Even in highly technical fields like information technology, 25 percent of the skills requested in job ads is a baseline skill.

The exact mix of these baseline skills, and the problems employers seem to have finding them, shifts depending on the career field, the Burning Glass study found. For example, employers in sales seem to have trouble finding workers with effective time management, while customer service skills are in high demand and short supply in finance, IT, and clerical jobs.

“Employers and job-seekers might find it surprising that skills gaps not only exist among more complex, specialized technical skills, but also baseline skills,” said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass. “If employers were confident that everyone had learned these baseline skills in high school, they wouldn’t be focusing on them so much in job ads. Skills that are overemphasized in ads are usually undersupplied in the workforce.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Baseline skills aren’t limited to “people skills.” Certainly, skills like customer service and planning appear across the board in job postings, but so do skills like writing, as well as knowledge of specific software packages like Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Lower-skill jobs seem to face the widest gaps in baseline skills. Employers in fields such as Hospitality, Food and Tourism, and Personal Care make particularly strong calls for skills like basic math and computer literacy.
  • Baseline skill gaps may be specific to a particular career—but not necessarily core skills in the field. Often, these gaps represent skills that are not covered in traditional training programs, but which are still critical to performance. For example, math skills are particularly emphasized in customer service and hospitality/food service job postings, where workers are less likely to have developed quantitative skills. IT employers, by contrast, are more likely to emphasize customer service or leadership skills.

The full report is available at http://burning-glass.com/research/baseline-skills.

About Burning Glass

Burning Glass Technologies delivers job market analytics that empower employers, workers, and educators to make data-driven decisions. Burning Glass is reshaping how the job market works, with data that identify the skill gaps that keep job seekers and employers apart and tools that enable both sides to bridge that gap and connect more easily. The company’s artificial intelligence technology analyzes hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labor market patterns. This real-time strategic intelligence offers crucial insights, such as which jobs are most in demand, the specific skills employers need, and the career directions that offer the highest potential for workers.

Based in Boston, Burning Glass is playing a growing role in informing the global conversation on education and the workforce, and in creating a job market that works for everyone. For more information, visit burning-glass.com.