Learning leaders evaluate their employees’ soft skills to identify ways to improve the company culture and work environment. Nearly all organizations understand the importance of soft skills and how they can ensure better collaboration and communication, which can lead to bigger success. The more that soft skills are practiced in an organization, the easier it can be to foster a harmonious and productive workplace. In this article, we’ll examine what soft skills look like in the workplace and tips for deploying soft skills training in your organization.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are nontechnical skills that are related to a person’s behavioral competencies, such as communication, empathy and active listening. More organizations are increasingly realizing how much stake soft skills have in business success. According to LinkedIn Learning, 61% of business professionals say that soft skills in the workplace are just as critical as hard skills. And in a study, 91% of talent professionals agreed that softs skills are transforming the workplace.
Also known as interpersonal skills, soft skills are important because they help us effectively navigate our professional (and personal) relationships. Every day we interact with colleagues from simple conversations about tasks to complex, difficult conversations, such as addressing inappropriate behavior or negotiating salaries. Soft skills can help positively shape these experiences and ensure the best outcome.
How To Deploy Soft Skills Training
Here are some effective steps to consider when implementing soft skills training in your organization:
- Conduct a needs analysis.
When deploying soft skills training, it’s important to begin by assessing the workforce’s current skill level. This can be done effectively with a needs analysis (also known as a needs assessment). A needs analysis can identify and evaluate specific training needs of the entire organization as well as individual employees.
Once the organization knows what soft skills their lacking in, they can provide the right development and assign their offerings based on need or level of development. For example, the organization may provide leadership training to high potential individuals, communication training to all members of the organization and decision-making training to new managers.
- Get leadership buy-in.
To properly implement soft skills training, it’s important to get buy-in from leadership. Without leadership’s support, it can be difficult for the training to make an impact. To ensure leadership buy in, make sure to value their input and look for ways to include different departmental leaders.
- Develop a strategy.
Soft skills training is the most effective when approached systematically. You can start by creating a three to five year strategy, and then phase training so it’s deployed at a steady pace and builds on top of other learning initiatives.
- Make it a blended learning experience.
It’s also most effective when the offerings are diversified. For example, combining a keynote at an annual event with a monthly podcast and an in-person or live online training can provide a blended learning experience. Blended learning can help increase learning stickiness and time to proficiency.
- Adopt an experiential learning approach.
Soft skills, unlike technical skills, can be harder to practice and repeat in the workplace. Adopting an experiential learning approach can help. Experiential learning can create a low-stakes environment where learners are encouraged to “learn by doing.” They can practice and apply new skills through hands-on activities like roleplaying or simulations. This is especially beneficial for soft skills training, since making a mistake on the job can could be high risk.
For example, leaders undergoing soft skills training have little room to practice effective communication skills on the job. Their employees depend on them for clear direction every day, so as a result, company leaders must be ready to embody those skills off the bat.
- Ask for feedback.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Make sure to go out of your way to hear from your learners. You can do this by conducting a companywide survey or gathering information from one on ones and weekly check ins. Feedback can help you continuously improve the training program and meet employee expectation.
Soft skills can be considered a product of nature versus nurture. Most people are born with some innate ability to empathize and communicate with others, but these skills can also be developed and refined with training. Implementing effective soft skills training can help promote dynamic and collaborative work relationships and higher growth for the business.