Hard skills date quickly but soft skills are useful for life. In a fast-moving market, soft skills are what will set your employees and your organisation apart from the competition.
There’s a lot of talk around soft skills in the workplace. Some believe it’s just a trend. Others view them as personality traits (read: unteachable). Others still consider them a nice extra, something to offer their employees after they’re done with the more ‘serious’ training.
No matter where you stand on the subject, soft skills seem like quite an abstract topic. Due to their slow-but-lasting effect, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact ROI of soft skills training – hard, but not impossible. Let’s take a look at why organisations need to focus on soft skills in the workplace and how best to go about it.
Why soft skills matter
Technically, soft skills are personality traits, but most personality traits, from empathy to resilience to teamwork, can be taught – particularly when linked to daily tasks and work habits.
In the long term, soft skills training will impact both employee wellbeing and business growth. There is, for example, a clear link between employees with high emotional intelligence, who collaborate well within teams, and higher performance rates. Similarly, there is a link between soft skills training and agility/resilience. The pandemic, and the subsequent digital transformation, contributed to many companies having to pivot or make organisational changes. During a recent TalentLMS survey about reskilling and upskilling training, 68% of companies said they invested in it to help employees handle changes within the organisation.
Overall, focusing on soft skills in the workplace is a smart investment for the future. With the breakneck pace of technological developments and the rise of automation that’s already taking place, it’s soft skills that will set great employees and companies apart.
The most essential soft skills to future-proof your teams
How can you ensure you’re setting up your team for success now and in the future with your soft skills training? Offer a combination of evergreen and ‘in demand’ soft skills.
With the rise of remote work and hybrid workplaces, good communication skills (whether written or verbal) are becoming paramount. Communication skills courses can cover anything from knowing how to write great emails to coworkers, to greeting customers properly, to giving advice to team members with confidence.
Being able to collaborate well means being comfortable with reaching out across different departments when necessary. It means organising and motivating a team, knowing when to step up to save the day, and when to be a supporting player. All of this is crucial knowledge for your company’s continued success.
The way we work has changed dramatically within this last year alone. Employers and employees alike realised they needed to re-learn how to deal with stressful situations. Working from home (a trend that doesn’t seem to diminish any time soon) means learning how to stay motivated. Teaching your employees to be more resilient can help with engagement, performance and ultimately minimise employee turnover.
Agility has also become a bit of a buzzword lately, but for good reason. Learning how to translate the agility mindset into everyday work, being unafraid of making mistakes, and thinking on one’s feet are some of the most in-demand skills for the employees of tomorrow.
The rise of remote and hybrid work environments means companies now have multicultural, multi-generational, and diverse teams. With the rise of data usage globally, audiences and customer bases are becoming increasingly more diverse as well.
There are many ways to teach inclusion in the workplace. Start with some more general courses about the value of diversity and inclusion and then hone it down to specific issues, such as LGBTQ+ awareness.
What used to be a time consuming, expensive process, now is not that different from other soft skills training courses. Offering leadership training to more people will ensure your employees feel appreciated. It will give them confidence to grow — and you will have tomorrow’s leaders lined up.
Leadership training is a delicate process with many different moving parts. Offer diverse courses that will teach learners to lead with respect, energy, and commitment.
How to foster soft skills in the workplace
Simply offering training won’t cut it. To make sure your employees experience real growth (and that they’re applying that growth in their work), you need to make your work environment a conducive one.
Identify soft skills gaps
Like with any training, before you start, you need to identify your gaps. Due to the nature of soft skills, this process should be both self-reflective and based on dialogue and feedback. Offer your employees the tools (a survey, for instance) to reflect on which soft skills they’re good at and which are lacking. Combine their self-assessment with a round of 360-degree feedback.
Explain the benefits
People can be sceptical about soft skills training; they can view it as a hint that their personality ‘needs fixing’. Overcome this bias by explaining the benefits to them. Tell them how this training will give them an edge, make their daily interactions easier, and contribute to their overall growth.
Make your culture speak for you
Now that they’ve done the introspective work, assure your employees that improving their soft skills will benefit them. Apart from offering continuous training (as you should), ensure that your company culture aligns with what you’re trying to tell your employees.
Are you fostering an environment of inclusion and diversity? Do you encourage employees to keep learning and growing? Do you promote cross-department communication? Do you value empathy and active listening? For soft skills in the workplace to stick, people need to use them often.
Leverage the right technology
Investing in the right LMS will make your training easier, faster, and more effective. Make sure the software you choose also has a mobile app so that your employees can keep learning wherever they are.
Be with them every step of the way
Offering feedback, and often, is the best way to help your employees develop their soft skills and use them on the job.
Soft skills are forever
When hiring new staff, focus on soft skills and mindset rather than technical skills. You can teach both soft and hard skills, but if employees are unwilling to learn to communicate, collaborate, embrace change and be inclusive, then they won’t make a good addition to your team.
The last decade has proven that hard skills can get quickly outdated. Soft skills and a continuous learning mindset are keys to long-term success, both for individuals and your organisation as a whole.