By Kazi Nayeer
Soft skills are interpersonal skills that include how one interacts with people at work including managers, workers, colleagues, vendors etc. Unlike hard skills, these are neither easily measured nor are they achieved through traditional class room training. Soft skills and hard skills go hand in hand and complement one another, but as important as they are, most of the time they are not given enough attention. Some very necessary soft skills that are needed for one’s career are –
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Positive attitude
- Team work
- Work ethics
Now, although having every single soft skill might not be possible for someone, it is preferable to have at least a few of those in the beginning of a job. These skills will help an employee have a greater team performance and achieve a higher success. Moreover, for organizations, having employees with good soft skills will allow them to have a greater chance of achieving their mission and vision. However, traditionally people do not get enough soft skill training from any institutions. There are some websites like MindTools.com, Goskills.com, Skillsoft.com etc. that help people learn about these skills, but it is not the same as getting trained in person. Hence there is a visible lacking of soft skills in many employees.
IDENTIFYING THE SOFT SKILLS GAP
Let’s say that you, as an event manager, get a lot of new clients. However, once they are done with their event, they are no longer coming back to you for future events. Again, if you’re a manager in any organization and you’re seeing that the employee turnover ratio has increased and you are constantly having to hire new people, you can consider that there is a lack of soft skills. Whenever you have a lot of managers but no real leaders, again there is a lack of leadership which is another soft skill. Some key areas to look into for soft skills are:
- Personal accountability
- Interpersonal negotiation or communication skill
- Conflict resolution
- Creative thinking
- People’s adaptability and flexibility
When a team lacks these simple skills, you should focus on developing them and also encourage the whole team to develop them as well.
WHY THEY MATTER
Technical skills can help people to get job, that is true, but their people skills are going to let them in for more opportunities and growth. Good work ethics, positive mental attitude, good communication skills, emotional intelligence, team work, leadership skills and a bunch of other skills are very crucial for success in one’s career.
These soft skills can make one excel as a leader. Problem solving, team building, motivating and encouraging can become much easier if one has good soft skills. Knowing how to get along and deal with people nicely, displaying a positive attitude is crucial for bringing success.
However, the problem is that the importance of soft skills is often not valued as they should be and enough training is not provided to develop them whereas there are sufficient opportunities for hard skills to grow.
CHALLENGES IN MODERN BUSINESS
While it is easy to teach hard skills to most people with the right training methods, teaching soft skills is widely recognized to be harder to teach. The reason is that work habits and attitudes become parts of a human being over a lifetime. These almost become parts of who the person is. Developing new soft skills involves changing work philosophy, attitudes and understanding and overcoming personal character flaws. It takes way more commitment for one to recognize their own flaws and be open to accept and change them.
In the modern age, businesses are being born and are growing rapidly all around us. When one business starts to grow, it starts to compete with bigger and stronger companies. In order to last and succeed in the competition, companies have to be at their top game to provide the best output they possibly can. For that to happen, the organization must run like a smooth engine where the employees are the internal parts and soft skills work as the engine oil that helps it run smoothly. So if an organization does want to succeed, they must have employees with and abundance of soft skills.
TEACHING SOFT SKILLS AND IMPROVING CORPORATE CULTURE
According to Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation, 75% of long term job success depends upon mastery of soft skills and just 25% on technical skills. Luckily, soft skills are highly trainable.
Soft skills are not achieved just like magic; employees need to be trained to have better soft skills. Here’s how –
Hiring Smarter: It is best to hire employees with similar mindset as the organization in the first place because later on it becomes easier to teach them the skills that they need. Hiring employees who are willing to learn more than just practical skills, is the best way to go. Asking questions like – “Is the potential hire willing to expand their knowledge?” “Do they have experience in problem solving in difficult situations?”, can be beneficial.
Training Needs Assessment: It is easier to map the route if the destination is known. So before planning a training program, it is best to know what the employees need to be trained with. Starting by asking the employees to set their own goals is a good idea. Get to know from the employees if they are struggling with organizing long term projects; if they face difficulties while dealing with difficult suppliers, buyers or even colleagues. This gets them more involved and interested in the training program.
Finding an excellent and intuitive Learning Management System (LMS): LMS helps to deliver and track the employees’ learning. Finding the best ones is crucial because it can monitor progress towards the employees’ individual goals. LMS can be used to teach them the soft skills effectively by –
- Introducing one soft skill concept at a time: Instead of barraging employees with a lot of soft skills at once, one at a time will provide better learning.
- Fostering creativity with whiteboards: Whiteboards are an ideal tool to teach employees to be more creative and allow more collaborations and innovations in the organization. It could as simple as visiting this link to buy it at Writey, for example, if companies are looking to implement this feature within work environment.
- Promoting soft skills with social learning tools: An LMS’s social learning tool enables workers to develop team work and communication skills.
Offer opportunities for practice, reflection and refinement: Just training the employees to do individual tasks is not going to be effective. It’s the best to offer opportunities for practice and refinement of the skills that they have learned. If the employees are performing better than before, reward them and if they are refusing to learn and adopt the skills even after being given enough time and opportunities, it is time to let them go.
Build soft skill development into regular performance reviews: Firing an employee who’s not meeting the company standards for adopting soft skills can become an HR nightmare if their performance is not well documented. One great way to avoid that is to incorporate the employees’ soft skills into their performance reviews and talk about their progress, needed improvement and other issues into writing.
Summing it all up, it is quite evident that soft skills are just as important as hard skills these days and it will stay like this for a long time in the future. So, it is a good decision to take steps in order to develop soft skills among employees for organizational success.