University of Hawaii Survey Finds Soft Skills Necessary for the Workplace

Posted on May. 26, 2020  /  Advancing the Profession  /   0

In February 2020, SHRM Hawai’i Chapter Research Committee collaborated with Dr. Michael Cheang and Georgia Lynn Yamashita from University of Hawaii at Manoa (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) to do a pilot study on what employers expect of recent university graduates at the time of hire.  

Survey questions focused on skills that recent university graduates lacked at the time of hire.  

Twenty five SHRM members participated in the pilot study.  Here’s a summary of some of the findings… 


  1. When hiring recent university graduates, personal attributes are as, if not more, important as just skills, experience or good grades.  60 percent of respondents ranked personal attributes as more important than the skills.


  1. Top personal attributes employers look for?  Positive attitude, personable and pleasant, flexible and adaptable, interested and enthusiastic, willingness to learn, team player, reliable and dependable


  1. Top skills employers look for?  Critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication skills (written, oral, virtual communication etiquette).


  1. The top personal attributes and skills are also the ones that many recent university graduates lack.


Profile of the survey participants?  

Professionals with many years of experience and wisdom!  92% females with average 24 years of work experience.  76 percent work in for-profit industries.


Do you agree with the findings?  Are you surprised?  Shall we hire the attitude and train the skills?  What would you like to add to this conversation?


The University of Hawaii will be opening up this survey again on May 25, 2020.   The results will be used to influence our soft skill course curriculum to align with our commitment to prepare our students for successful careers in the local workforce.  Please join us in this study.  Study will close on June 26,2020.  Here's the web link and QR code for the survey:



This survey will not collect sensitive information such as your name, the name of the company that you work at, or IP addresses that you use to do the online survey.


Please share this opportunity with your HR colleagues and friends who hire employees to participate in this study.  


At the SHRM Conference in October 2020, we will share the findings of this study, and will have a conversation with Michael, Lynn and representatives from SHRM.  


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