In today’s training environments being a subject matter expert (SME) is not enough. Learning leaders’ need for soft skills continues to rise. Soft skills aid in delivering an impactful training session and successful training outcomes. The question may arise, which soft skills are the worthy ones? According to Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham, the authors of “The 55 Soft Skills That Guide Employee and Organization Success,” there are 55 soft skills to consider.
Dr. Portfield and Graham stated that soft skills have more value than technical skills. Coincidentally, they were not the only researchers to compose data to support that theory. In his book, “Emotional Intelligence; Why it can matter more than IQ,” Dr. Daniel Goleman wrote that, “EI abilities rather that IQ or technical skills emerge as what are the discriminating competencies. They best predict who among the group of very smart people will lead most ably.”
Let us consider a scenario where a training professional is very technical in their training abilities and the audience is technically inept. The trainees may meet a challenge when a trainer does not speak in layperson terms. They simply don’t understand the technological jargon. This can lead to a disconnect between a training professional and trainee. Not only was a human connection missing, so were other soft skills.
From a training professional’s point of view, one must ask what it takes to deliver impactful training. We can agree that the goal is to ensure learners can effectively apply what they’ve learned back on the job. What does it take to create an impactful training session? The answer lies in soft skills. By obtaining the soft skills outlined below, you will be better positioned to deliver effective training programs.
Some say that patience is a virtue, but it’s more than that: It’s an important soft skill as well. Having patience contributes to a calm environment in which the trainer actively listens to learners’ concerns. Training sessions conducted by impatient trainers cause a great deal of harm. Trainees withdraw, tension is felt among the group, and thus, the training is not effective. Patience is essential when a learner isn’t grasping the concepts as quickly as the others. When a trainer is patient, the learner knows it’s safe to ask a question and, as a result, they feel more comfortable in the learning process.
Empathy is the second soft skill that training professionals need. Empathy is critical in helping learning leaders understand a learner’s background, values and beliefs, and individual experience. Being able to relate to and understand your learners is critical.
Empathic trainers are also aware of their audience’s resistance. They may internally question their learners’ situations. Are they under stress? Do they have extreme deadlines they’re working to meet? Does their schedule or workload not allow time for training? Employees may resist new processes because they have been comfortable performing a given task a certain way for years. When training professionals fail to empathize with their learners, they fail to connect with them. As humans, we want to feel a sense of belonging. Being empathic by showing compassion and warmth allows for a better training environment for everyone.
The third soft skill, optimism, is the ray of sunshine that fills the room. It’s important that trainers show enthusiasm for the content they’re delivering. The training professional sets the tone. A “negative nelly” demeanor is not good for morale. Negative attitudes in the workplace cause more harm than good. The learner will not absorb the content as well as they could, which can hinder the business impact of training. When trainers have a positive outlook, learners are more likely to remain engaged and motivated to learn. In addition, optimistic training professionals give learners ease and confidence that they can learn a new software or skill. An optimistic trainer can shine onto a gloomy group, leading to a more positive learning experience for all.
Optimism blends with another important soft skill for training professionals — confidence. When a training professional appears confident during their sessions, trainees are more likely to think they’ll get something out of the session. This type of energy is easily detected by the trainees. Confident trainers are not arrogant, they just know they can manage any situation that arises in the training environment. They don’t have all the answers, and they don’t need all the answers, but they know how to find the answers.
Another soft skill that can help training professionals deliver impactful training is one that makes all of us lighten up: humor. Of course, humor must be delivered in good taste. This is the person that laughs at themselves and has a lighthearted approach. They know how to engage their audience by delivering fun and lively training sessions. When the trainees laugh, they feel at ease. A lighthearted training environment makes it easier for an employee to digest the newly learned information.
In conclusion, a training professional’s soft skills play an important role in their ability to deliver effective training. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, technical skills do not have more merit than soft skills. Being intelligent is not the sole answer to success, either. You need soft skills to connect with your audience. When soft skills are lacking, unsatisfactory training outcomes can lead to other unfavorable results, such as low employee retention rates or resistance to attending future training sessions.
Captivate your learners with humor, confidence, optimism, empathy and patience. Watch how your soft skills will lead to more impactful training.