Imagine your ideal employee. What qualities comes to mind first?
It’s hard to find employees with all of these soft skills. Hopefully some are sprinkled throughout your team even if hiring tends to focus on technical skills. While important, employees need to offer more than hard skills.
Why do soft skills matter?
If you’ve encountered folks who lack soft skills, you understand all too well the damage it can do.
- The programmer who can’t translate ideas into layman’s terms and gets frustrated when co-workers don’t understand
- The analyst with poor time management who has an excuse for every missed deadline and the client is now threatening to leave
- The customer service rep who lacks critical thinking skills and cannot anticipate potential issues with unusual client requests
- The designer who gets defensive whenever the team provides feedback, no matter how constructive
Truth is, the value of hard skills diminishes without soft skills. What exactly are these coveted skills? There’s some variation in the research but here’s a good place to start.
Top eight soft skill examples
- Communication skills – oral, written and non-verbal communication, respect, clarity
- Leadership – empathy, humility, authenticity, trust, integrity
- Teamwork – collaboration, active listening, conflict resolution
- Adaptability – decision-making, open-mindedness, calmness, self-motivation
- Critical thinking – problem solving, observation, persuasion, negotiation
- Work ethic – discipline, dependability, responsibility
- Interpersonal skills – sensitivity, patience, diplomacy, humor
- Time management – planning, focus, delegation, organization
Without them, the potential pitfalls are daunting. Employees lacking these skills can hinder projects, cause stress, completely hijack initiatives and lose customers. It becomes nearly impossible to contain the domino effect on morale, causing top employees to leave. It strains leadership because they waste time troubleshooting instead of team-building and growing the business.
What are the benefits of soft skills development?
Are you ready for some really good news? Your team can reap tons of benefits with soft skills training:
- Improve employee engagement and job satisfaction – By investing in employees, it demonstrates your company’s long-term commitment to their professional development.
- Enhance corporate culture – By reinforcing communication skills and emotional intelligence as key values, you can improve collaboration and employee morale.
- Support innovation – By teaching critical thinking and problem-solving strategies, employees can ask probing questions, gather information and use feedback to develop targeted solutions. Carefully vetted solutions can win new customers and keep existing customers happy.
- Increase efficiency – By providing time management principles based on collaboration, employees can more effectively meet company goals and objectives. It doesn’t hurt that this improved productivity can impact the bottom line!
Soft skills are a key factor in employee promotability, so they’ll be eager to participate. Not every employee aspires to become a great leader but they can still benefit from training programs designed to address these skills gaps.
Different strategies to promote soft skills
- Adjust your approach to hiring – When expanding your team, discuss if there are any hard skills that can easily be trained so you have more flexibility when hiring. Candidates who might normally be eliminated from consideration could bring a wealth of soft skills. Modeling these skills can have an infectious impact. As the world fills with more sophisticated AI and automation, organizations fueled by workers adept at soft skills will have a competitive advantage. Robots don’t have soft skills. Employees do.
- Maximize effectiveness of current employees – Many people don’t know their soft skills are lacking. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering self-awareness is the foundation of all soft skills. The good news is focused training can bring awareness to the value of soft skills and help them hone their new skills.
- In the moment training – The best way to develop soft skills is to test the various strategies and see which works. Practice makes perfect! Encourage managers to provide a safe environment where their team can learn by doing. That includes leveraging failures as an opportunity to grow these budding abilities.
- Make it fun and keep them engaged – Most people are eager to improve skills, but some teaching modalities are boring. By using a hands-on approach and making it fun, people are more motivated to learn, and it increases their retention. This also makes it accessible to everyone – even folks with diverse learning styles. That’s a winning formula!
With the continuing shift towards automation, there are many jobs at risk of becoming obsolete. Don’t let your company fall prey to the same fate. Identify and develop competencies where machines can’t compete.
As a leading certified professional employer organization (CPEO) in Chicago, MidwestHR has refined our soft skills training programs. Whether your team prefers on-site or online programs, our team of experts can provide tips, training and advice on HR best practices that will engage employees and help them realize their full potential. For over 20 years, clients have trusted us to manage all their HR needs including employee benefits, retirement, employee training and more. Give us a call at 630-836-3000 to learn how we can be part of your competitive advantage.