The working world, as we knew it, is not the same anymore. Artificial intelligence, automation, and the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the nature of the workplace. Businesses realize they must pay more attention to their workers’ emotional and social abilities, which are skills machines cannot master.
It is accepted that soft skills are necessary for a company to succeed, which is why employee training in this area has increased considerably. Companies have adjusted how they assess, educate, and reward their employees on soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and adaptability.
But before we go further, let’s look at the difference between soft skills and hard skills.
Hard skills or technical skills are abilities that enable you to handle job-specific responsibilities and duties. Every position in a company requires unique hard skills usually obtained through education and on-the-job training. Examples of hard skills are technical and computer skills, bookkeeping, and driving a forklift.
Soft skills, also referred to as people skills or emotional intelligence, can be defined as the ability to interact amicably with other people. Soft skills help you solve problems and build relationships enabling you to use your hard skills to full capacity. It can refer to one’s personality, temperament, and qualities such as professionalism, organization, and reliability.
As organizations are looking to add additional value to their business in the modern workplace, soft skills are becoming increasingly important. Many companies are moving to a matrix organizational structure, making soft skills essential for their success.
A matrix organizational structure means employees are separated into teams and assigned projects under different managers based on their abilities and skills. This means employees need to be creative, flexible, and adaptable in order to be effective.
Now that we know what the difference is between hard and soft skills, let’s take a look at the eight most popular soft skills:
1. Communication skills.
Effective communication skills consists of five components – verbal, non-verbal, written and visual communication, and active listening. You need to listen actively to understand and communicate with someone. Without effective listening skills, communication will be ineffective and is considered “one-way”.
2. Work Ethic.
This means being responsible and performing the job you’re being paid to do. Good work ethic includes being punctual, meeting deadlines and making sure your work is error-free. This short article will help create a good work ethic that will impress employers and secure promotions. Take into consideration these few ways for you to develop a good work ethic.
3. Leadership skills.
Effective leadership is one of the key soft skills. Good leaders motivate, assess, discipline employees, and cultivate the desired company culture.
4. Problem-solving skills.
Being able to identify and discuss your problems and learn from them is a vital soft skill. Companies hire employees to solve problems, and often the pathway to a solution is not linear or unclear. Being able to use your knowledge to solve problems and formulate solutions will demonstrate that you can handle stressful issues effectively and excel in your career.
5. Interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills include building and maintaining relationships, using diplomacy, and developing rapport. It means being tolerant and respectful regarding others and their opinions and empathizing with them. Strong interpersonal skills are vitally important as it ensures the development of teams with a strong foundation of accountability and trust.
Even if you prefer to work independently, you should understand the value of working with others to accomplish the company’s goals. It means you have the necessary soft skills to engage in productive teamwork.
7. Flexibility and adaptability.
In the business world today, companies sometimes need to make rapid changes to remain competitive. It’s more important than ever for employees to be adaptable and willing to take on responsibilities that don’t necessarily lie in their area of expertise.
A positive attitude is an all-important trait that employers look for in their employees. People aren’t always taught to be positive, so you may have the edge over the competition if your employees have a great attitude!
This brings us to the next important question:
Why are soft skills so crucial for the success of your business and your team?
Effective soft skills are essential to ensure an employee’s ability to work productively with others. Networking abilities, excellent presentation skills, and etiquette awareness can secure new clients and generate more work from existing clients.
An ability to provide excellent customer service, effectively solve problems, and resolve conflicts can lead to stronger relationships with vendors and colleagues. This helps build confidence, which is invaluable in the business world. A lack of soft skills not only limits potential but can lead to the downfall of the business.
That is why the implementation of an effective soft skills training program is vital for every organization.
Organizations should implement soft skills training in their company training programs to effectively address possible “soft skill gaps” in their workforce. Developing soft skills training is, however, more complicated than hard skills training.
Hard skills can be easily taught, learned, and perfected over time. In contrast, soft skills are more challenging to develop since they are closely linked with an individual’s character.
Here are three challenges to soft skills training programs and how to overcome them:
1. Soft skills training takes repeated effort.
For soft skills, repeated practice, much reflection, and feedback from others is necessary before real growth occurs. To overcome this, create a long-term training program and reinforce and extend the training over at least a year. Incentives are also a good way to encourage employees to continue participating and complete their training.
2. Soft skills are hard to measure.
Measuring a hard skill, like how to operate an excavator, is easy. You ask the trainee to perform the task, and they do it. It’s more complicated to create assessments for soft skills like, for example, time management.
To address this, you can try role-playing and scenario-based knowledge checks. You can also provide your managers with a checklist of observable behaviors to look for in employees.
3. Soft skills are more challenging to learn than hard skills.
Motivation to change is vital to develop soft skills, especially if they are not a natural part of someone’s personality. Developing hard skills like technical and computer skills can be done by almost anyone. But for many people, developing soft skills might appear to be an impossible task.
If approached correctly, though, it is possible to learn soft skills. Shy people, for example, can develop into powerful public speakers if they are sufficiently motivated to change.
So how should you go about creating and implementing a soft skills training program that will be effective?
Here are a few tips to help you develop an effective soft skills training program:
1. Assessment is an essential first step.
Determining your company’s and employee’s soft skill gaps can be challenging as there aren’t evaluation and certification mechanisms available. Equip your human resources department with a framework that defines their respective data and codifies soft skills.
2. Include soft skill training in your onboarding training program.
Here are a few great benefits if you include soft skills training in your onboarding training program:
- Good habits will be instilled from the beginning.
- Your new hires will be more confident.
- Soft skills training will help avoid costly mistakes.
- New hires receive skills they won’t get elsewhere.
3. Rewards and incentives are critical.
Encourage and reward soft skills training as part of your employees’ ongoing professional development. Ensure your training programs are easily accessible for all your staff and reward them for getting involved with these opportunities. You can also implement a rewards program for soft skills training that recognizes employee development, thereby encouraging your team to continue investing in their soft skills development.
In the modern workplace, soft skills have become more important than ever. The ability to amicably interact with other people and solve problems effectively enables employees to utilize their hard skills at full capacity and contribute to the company’s overall success. Implementing soft skills training in your overall workplace training program will ensure your employees’ optimal development, effective communication, and your business’s overall success.
Coggno has a wide range of online courses related to soft skills.
You can have a look at our course catalog here.