Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Skills, Motivation and Attitude: Which is the most important?

By Ernie Arias
Never before has the hiring pool been so crowded with Social and Digitally-savvy, super-talented young adults coming out of college; seasoned, experienced individuals out of the workplace due to layoffs caused by the recent recession; and people who are working but in the process of making a career move. It's like heaven for recruiters, employers and managers, having so much talent to choose from. It might also be a bit frightening trying to choose the right candidate from such a group of super-qualified professionals.

n all my years managing Studios I've learned that there are three very distinctive quality traits you must identify in an employee, skills and/or abilities, motivation, and attitude. Fundamentally, skills and abilities are the knowledge they possess in the industry based on study, training and experience; motivation is what moves the individual into action, it could be money or recognition, a perk, a bonus or a prize, whatever moves your boat; attitude is every person's approach towards a specific task or situation.
See below how they are defined by Merriam Webster and Wikipedia:
Skill, as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance. Dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks.

Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. According to various theories, motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, selfishness, morality, or avoiding mortality.

An Attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object. People can also be conflicted or ambivalent toward an object, meaning that they simultaneously possess both positive and negative attitudes toward the item in question
Skills/abilities, motivation and attitude are all important. It's like having a 3-legged stool, if you take one leg out, the stool will fall down right away. However, I consider motivation and attitude to be the most important traits in this trio. Skills and abilities are what you learn either by proper training or experience and it is proven that a highly motivated individual is usually more prone to learn new things and adapt to new situations than someone with low drive. The key is to pinpoint the element that moves this individual into action. Then we can start talking about a universal motivator like money which includes salary, perks, benefits, bonuses, etc. Other motivators are not as tangible as money and they have to do more with the person's ethical values, the need for recognition, the desire for professional growth and advancement, etc.

Attitude, as per definition, is how you approach a situation. It could be positive, negative or somewhere in between, and it has nothing to do with how skillful and knowledgeable this person might be. True professionals always have the best attitude, and even when the task at hand is not exactly what they'd prefer to work on, you rarely see them complaining to their manager.

Motivation and attitude differ from skills/abilities in how anything you learn is within yourself and actually improves with time, you don't forget what you already know unless there is a physical ailment like amnesia. On the other hand motivation and attitude can change very easily, and you can see how an employee's motivation drops when he/she stops receiving one of the things that promotes their motivation, i.e., if the company decides to stop issuing cab vouchers to the employees to reduce cost. Another example of how an employee with good demeanor and positive attitude can change to a very negative one is when they feel an atmosphere of unfairness in the job place

The best part is how easy it is to identify if an individual possess a good attitude and what's their motivation, right in the interview process. Future Rock Stars are usually found in individuals with the best attitude and the ones whose motivation goes beyond money. Ironically, those are the ones also who get the promotions and salary raises. 


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Ernie Arias