Once your new hire knows how to do their job, click the right buttons and pull the right levers, they will be great. Right?

Not quite.

To be successful, your employees need soft skills. And if they don’t have them, they need to be trained to have them.

The problem is this: When people think of hiring and job training, they think of hard skills, or the technical, more quantifiable functions of the job. Hard skills are easier to measure, thus easier to train for. Soft skills are a little more difficult to pin down. This is because they’re usually perceived as innate character traits that help people succeed in their job. You either have them or you don’t.

This is far from the truth — and soft skills matter too much for businesses to continue to view them this way. Let’s look at the most important ones.

1. Communication

Communication is an often misunderstood soft skill. It’s not just verbal communication. Written, visual and active listening skills all fall into this bucket. Even if your employee is in a cube all day (or, more accurately today, working from home), they will inevitably have to do something that requires communication. Like sending emails or creating a presentation for an executive meeting.

2. Work Ethic

A good work ethic is another soft skill that people don’t usually consider, or they just take it for granted. If a candidate doesn’t have a good work ethic, you may end up having to spend a lot of time micromanaging. Nobody likes that. Those with a strong work ethic, on the other hand, positively impact your business, because you know they will do their job. Of course, your team, bosses and clients like that.

3. Flexibility

Things change. Priorities shift. It’s important to have employees that can handle that. That new hire that breezed through the technical portion of the interview — if the process they know well changes, are they flexible enough to change with it? Or are they only capable of doing the job the way it’s always been done? Yes, you can always train for more hard skills, but think about how much more effective your business will be if you trained for flexibility, too.

4. Leadership

This is another trait that some naturally have and others don’t. But it can be taught with the right programs. Leadership skills are important to measure because you might want to know who can rise in a company structure. It’s also important to train people who are not natural leaders but have the ambition to seek more responsibility. Investing in your team’s professional growth leads to a more engaged and effective workforce.

5. Teamwork

These days, teamwork is more essential than ever. With remote and hybrid working situations as the new normal, the ability to coordinate, collaborate, delegate and depend on your team is critical. If your training is only focused on the technical work, you’re missing the opportunity to bring together your people and create a more effective and productive team.

6. Interpersonal Skills

A business is a group of people with unique personalities and established relationships. It’s essential for new hires to quickly read people and how best to communicate with them to fit in seamlessly with your organization. If they don’t naturally have the interpersonal skills to do this, train them. It will make your team — and business —more successful.

How to Measure Soft Skills

Soft skills can have a huge impact on your business. They represent the ideal employee that will work well with other team members and deliver results painlessly. To train for these skills, you have to start with measuring them. But how do you do that?

It starts by changing your perspective. To measure soft skills, many companies simply make assumptions. You assume in an interview that they’re good communicators because they’ve communicated with you. Based on past work experience, you assume they have a strong work ethic. This is all anecdotal, but there’s a more precise way you can measure — and then train for — soft skills. Just be more creative.

1. Define Soft Skills Specifically

Communication is more than just talking. When you think about soft skills in a general way, they are too abstract to track. So, the more specific you are about a soft skill, the easier it will be to measure. For example, someone’s job is to create presentations for executive leaders. A strong communication skillset will really require strong visual and written communication — so those are the soft skills you should be homing in on.

2. Identify the Ideal End State

Hard skills result in the job being done right or wrong. Soft skills actually result in the same thing. If someone was a great communicator, how would you expect them to act? Sticking with our presentation example: Was the presentation accurately developed? Were executives able to represent the company in the way you wanted to? These are clear goals you can measure that tie back to the employee’s communication skills.

3. Track In Meaningful Timeframe

Just as soft skills are difficult to measure when they’re broader, they’re also more difficult to measure over a long timeframe. Get down to the project or meeting level. That way, you will be able to see clearly how an end state of a project or meeting is tied to specific soft skills.

Conclusion

You’ve always known that soft skills matter — you list them on your job applications after all — but does your training program reflect that? It’s time to incorporate soft skills into your larger training programs.

By identifying the specific soft skill, defining success and measuring it in small increments, you’ll be able to stay on top of these qualities and nurture a more effective workforce.

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