Peter was a frustrated manager. The recent employee performance reviews his firm conducted delivered some stark news. Some of the staff didn’t know how to communicate well, were struggling to work together as a team and had difficulties with solving problems. Others did not feel they contributed meaningfully to the organization. Someone already told him about a soft skills training, but he didn’t pay too much attention.
What was wrong? Did he have to fire them? If he fired them, would he have the resources to hire more people? Were the potential people he would hire fare any better than his current employees?
The Rising Importance of Soft Skills
The above scenario is a snapshot of what many organizations face. Soft skills, once considered to be a lower priority than other hard and quantifiable skills, have become vital. The global economy has become a primarily knowledge-driven one. Everyone connects with everyone.
As a result, intangible or soft skills have come to play a greater part in workplace dynamics and an organization’s overall efficiency. Recent data from LinkedIn shows that soft skills have risen sharply in importance in the workplace. Some of these soft skills include:
- Collaboration and teamwork;
- Critical thinking;
- Conflict resolution;
- Time management;
- Goal setting;
What happens when, like Peter, a manager realizes that his staff is not that offering in certain soft skills? Is firing and hiring the best solution? Will the potential new hires have better soft skills? Is it only new hires that need soft skills training?
These are some of the questions posed by the emergence of soft skills as a core competency for organizational efficiency. What are some ways organizations can improve their soft skills training, to better equip their employees?
7 Ways to Develop a Soft Skills Training for Your Employees
1. Help Them Become Self-Aware
People tend to view themselves very differently from how others see them. The gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us is where issues can crop up. Help your employees become aware of this gap and find ways to address the issues that arise. One exercise to carry out on self-awareness:
- Let the team meet as a group;
- Ask everyone to note down skills that they think they are proficient in;
- Pair team members up. Then, ask them to note down what skills they think the other team member is good at, based on past observation;
- Read the results out loud;
- Compare the differences as a team and discuss on how to address the shortfalls you discovered.
When employees begin to learn to see things through the eyes of a fellow worker, they make more informed decisions.
2. Show Them the Bigger Picture
Many employees often receive clear performance goals. They know what to do when to do it and how to do it well. However, many of them do not know why they are doing it. They only view themselves as small cogs in a big wheel.
- Help employees to know and identify the group and overall goals of the organization.
- When an individual worker understands the company’s bigger picture, they see their contribution to it.
- Knowing the value of one’s work towards the overall goal will encourage critical thinking and collaboration.
3. Coach and Mentor Them
Once employees realize the skills in which they are not as good at, it is beneficial to the organization to help them learn how to improve.
- Meet with each staff member and find out what skills they need coaching in. Discover how coaching best works for them to tailor suitable approaches for each of them.
- Set clear expectations on both sides on the objectives of the exercise and what time frame it will take. A clear understanding of this will ensure a successful coaching experience takes place.
- Craft exercises that the employees can perform after being coached. Actionable points will help buttress the intangible lessons imparted and is an integral part of any soft skills training exercise.
4. Use Micro-Learning
Use short form micro-learning videos to model and reinforce good behavior.
- Brief videos depicting scenarios where soft skills are lacking and where the resolution of such situations is role played, help employees learn better.
- People are naturally visual and using brief videos they can recall presses the point home.
5. Try Blended-Learning
Combine micro-learning videos and group sessions in your soft skills training programs. Watching modeled lessons and hearing from the experience of fellow employees provides a layer of deep impact when it comes to learning that is easy to recall.
6. Encourage Cross-Departmental Training Programs
Create office exchange programs that facilitate job-swapping. Employees from one department go to work in a different department with new dynamics. The change in operational environment helps the employees see other parts of the organization away from their core areas of competency.
Understanding how other departments work provides the staff with a clearer understanding of the organization’s operations. As a result, they become more critical thinkers when back in their departments.
7. Encourage a Culture of Innovation
Build cross-functional project teams made up of employees from different departments. Assign these teams to work on a joint venture. Collaborative teams open the members up to differing experiences and viewpoints on a core objective.
Team members get to consider opposing views which builds better critical thinking skills. They get to express their thoughts and opinions, and this encourages better communication skills. Getting to work with others improves the collaborative skills of employees. Ideas think thanks to work on a new approach to an organization’s product or service are also ideal for this kind of hands-on soft skills training.
Setting the Tone
As the economy moves to being primarily knowledge-driven, soft skills are having a hard impact on team performance. Once considered an option, soft skills training for employees has now become a necessity. A workforce that can’t collaborate or communicate effectively will cost the overall organization dearly over time.
Senior managers need to focus on clearly identifying the soft skills that their employees lack to diagnose the problem accurately. Development of approaches to soft skills training most suitable to deal with the gaps in soft skills identified will strengthen the organization’s workforce.