It is now estimated that modern jobs require you to relearn 30% of skills each year.  Think about that.  Roughly every three years, you have to learn essentially everything you need to do your job all over again.  Now we know that around 30-40% of your job knowledge stays consistent over a long period of time.  But many aspects of the job must be learned over and over and over again.   To be truly successful, you have to be in a constant state of learning.

Skills Change / Attitude Remains

While skills constantly change, your attitude remains as one of the primary measures of success.  This research has been conducted many times over the years.  Most notably by Carnegie, in the first half of the twentieth century.

What Carnegie found, and others have backed up several times, is that most of a person’s success is determined by attitude.  As much as 85% of success is driven by your attitude, not by your skills or knowledge.

Skills are defined to be the ability to carry on specific tasks.  Knowledge is defined as the possession of key information such as laws, codes, and languages.  Skills and knowledge combined contribute to only about 15% of success.  Think about that for a minute.  We spend an inordinate amount of time learning skills (training on the latest procedures) and knowledge (16+years of formal education).

Skills and knowledge open doors

What we now know is that skills and knowledge open doors for us.  You need to have the knowledge of laws, programming languages, tax codes, and other “book smarts” in order to qualify to take a position.  This knowledge is the bare minimum you must possess in order to be considered for a position.

Additionally, you may need specific skills. in order to carry out the task.  You might need computer skills so that you can process tax returns.  You may need negotiation skills if you are going to be a litigator.  Communication skills, time management skills, leadership skills, and many others round out the list of things you might need in order to compete in the job market.

But while skills and knowledge may open doors, they do not propel careers.  Everyone is expected to have this same base-line in order to perform in their specific roles.  For example, a Java developer wouldn’t be hired if they didn’t possess the basic Java programming skills.  Now if their skills are substandard, they could lose their job.  Or if they are well above average, they may find themselves moving up the ladder in terms of technical roles.

But skills and knowledge will only take you so far.

Attitude puts us over the edge

Attitudinal qualities are what put us over the edge when compared to others.  While great Java development skills may be a necessity for your next project at work.  If the developer is a pain to work with, you might find others that would fulfill the role as well as being a better team member.  And the developer with a sour attitude will also not likely be promoted into a leadership role due to the fact that other members of the leadership team will not want to work with them as a peer.

When I ask my clients what attitude qualities are important to him, the list is pretty consistent.  I usually hear things like:

  • self-starter
  • positive mindset
  • independent
  • entrepreneurial
  • stick-to-it-tiveness
  • persistence
  • supportive

These and other attitudinal qualities are what truly drive success.  And this holds true across different types os positions and in different organizations.  Rarely does an organization truly only hire for skills and knowledge.  I’ve personally known of a couple of places that are this way, and trust me, you don’t want to work there.

How to handle the 30% Skills Turnover?

So the question remains.  If you have to retrain on 30% of your skills each year, yet skills are not that important, what is a successful business leader to do?  You must build a culture of a constant state of learning.  And how do you build that?

I believe the answer lies in attitude.  If you hire people who have the attitude of being a constant learner, independent and self-starter, the skills question will take care of itself.  In other words, if you hire a person with the right attitude about staying current with technology, they WILL stay current with technology, no matter what you do.

Your role then becomes primarily one of an “enabler”.  You enable your highly motivated, positive attitude-employees to stay current.  That might involve paying for some courses from time to time.  It will probably involve giving them time to research and stay abreast of the latest trends.  You will need to give them challenging assignments in order to put their skills to test in real-world scenarios.  And it most definitely will include creating a culture of sharing and encouraging each other to grow and learn.

Let me help you build a constant state of learning

I help my clients hire for attitude.  With the right assessment and interview approach, we can add the attitude component to your recruiting efforts.  If you would like to find out more, contact me, or send me an email at