Corporate Training 101: Developing Soft Skills at the Workplace

     

What do you lose when you compromise on soft skills? It is safe to say that businesses are aligned with keeping their personas as approachable and as solution-oriented as can be. While hard skills equip you with performing the functions of your job, soft skills equip you with the ability to understand, analyze, and respond appropriately to situations. Even technology, such as AI chatbots, are now used to imitate ‘soft skills’ and empathy to bring a human touch, during interactions. Hence, there is a lot to lose when your workers are not able to establish this element, when needed.

Thus, soft skills development training is a top priority for all companies who are vying for customer attention. Good soft skills mean better customer interactions, higher brand loyalty, and ultimately better bottom lines. Also, soft skill development helps in creating a workplace culture where communication is clear and empathetic.

What are soft skills?

Before asking ‘how to develop soft skills?’ You must ask what they are? Soft skills are a culmination of people skills, communication skills, social intelligence, and any characteristic that can be classified under personality traits or habits. A soft skill may be a personal attribute that supports situational awareness and enhances an individual's ability to get the job done. The term “soft skills” is usually used as a synonym for people skills or emotional intelligence. Unlike hard skills, which describe an individual's technical ability to perform a specifically-defined task, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It's often said that while hard skills may get someone an interview, soft skills will help that person succeed at the job; hence, soft skill development becomes a priority.

Soft skills at the workplace

Skill Development

Communication and collaboration are of the essence in a work environment. Effective communication helps in bridging information gaps in interactions. Your ability to deliver clear and concise ideas, instructions, responses and feedback to people you work with, could be leveraged to assert yourself as a competent and dependable co-worker as well as nudge people to collaborate with you. Clear communication skills can help you navigate through stressful situations, as well. Conviction, confidence, the ability to listen, the caliber to respond appropriately and quickly, and the propensity to move people with words, are the traits that can be honed over time, with consistent effort.

Here are some soft skills that will help you navigate the pressures of the workplace better.

  • Adaptability

    Adaptability is having the ability to embrace change, when you’re adaptable a new work environment won't intimidate you. A new software, client, challenge or any unfamiliar situation will demand your analytical and observational skills, hence it helps to adapt to the workplace efficiently.

  • Being Team Oriented

    High-performance teams are often identified by collaboration and teamwork. This is why employees must learn to understand a perspective, take it in stride, receive proper feedback, and be able to delegate tasks effectively. This soft skill is the essence of a healthy team dynamic.

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

    This is all about being receptive to your emotions and the emotions of the people around you. While an employee with low EQ might openly criticize a colleague during a meeting, a high-EQ employee would wait until after the meeting to supply criticism privately, and avoid embarrassing their colleague.

  • Listening

    Developing soft skills within the workplace relies entirely on this aspect. Listening isn't as simple as it sounds. If you’ve met interrupters, you will know it’s not a pleasant experience; it can make you feel unheard and unimportant. Contrast this situation with someone who doesn’t interrupt and lets you finish. They seem to be more approachable and understanding. This is an important quality, if you’re in a leadership role.

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The link between soft skills and productivity

Skill Development

Companies are constantly challenged when it comes to enhancing soft skills and personality to create leaders in today’s corporate environment. This occurs because the skills aren't typically taught as a hybrid skill set, in a university, along with other “hard” skills. For instance, IT courses tend to focus solely on programming and hard skills; while the humanities course fosters critical thinking and creativity, but often leave graduates with unsure career-paths.

There are no hybrid courses where learners can get the benefit of both. Developing soft skills like public speaking, multi-tasking, time management, negotiating, lateral-thinking, diplomacy, among many more, are essentially the ingredients of what makes you a good decision-maker, motivator, mediator, and leader. Individuals who possess these skills become natural leaders at the workplace and are highly efficient, especially in tasks where they have to collaborate with other team members.

Developing a culture of learning

It's become quite imperative for companies to cultivate learning if they want to remain in business. Since the business environment is dynamic, most companies feel pressure to adapt faster than their competitors, or risk losing the business altogether. This is often apparent in digital technology where companies keep churning out new models of products at a quick pace to outperform competitors.

Your company’s learning and development program is vital because it helps your employees absorb the right information, so that they can perform their tasks effectively. Learning has to become a part of the corporate culture in order to keep the system running in sync with the changes that the industry offers. It’s only when the office space motivates employees to grow, learn, and improve, is when the company gains optimum performance. It’s essential that employees learn and relearn every time something new presents itself, at the workspace.

Encouraging curiosity

New research points to three important insights about curiosity as it relates to business. Firstly, curiosity is much more important to an enterprise’s performance than previously thought. That’s because cultivating it at all levels helps leaders and their employees adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures. When your curiosity is triggered, you think more deeply and rationally about various decisions and come up with creative solutions.

Most of the breakthrough discoveries and remarkable inventions throughout history, from flints for starting a fire, to self-driving cars, have something in common- they are the result of curiosity. The impulse to seek new information, experiences, and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute. In addition, curiosity allows leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more-trusting and more-collaborative relationships with their peers.

Creating an environment with tools that encourage curiosity and public sharing of curiosity helps drive innovation. A tool such as a Learning Management system where the entire IP, Processes and Knowledge base of the organization is stored, helps the workforce understand the nuances of the organization easily and suggest novel ways of doing things. These suggestions can be peer reviewed, vetted and the best ones implemented.

Identifying gaps in knowledge and understanding

Here are a few steps you can take to identify and understand knowledge gaps when it comes to soft skills.

Set clear learning objectives: When the learning objectives are clear, the employees are more likely to stay on track since the course makes it simpler to observe their performance. For eg: If the objective of the soft skills course is to make employees better presenters, the course material should be about written + oral presentation skills, the end exam could be a presentation with the C suite.

Determine the required skill and knowledge: Evaluate the skills required by a communications employee, versus that of an IT employee. Notice how the skill sets vary, where the IT employee may need only basic communications skills, the sales team may need advanced training on honing their sales pitch. This understanding of the level of skills and requirements will help you develop a tailored soft skills training program.

Identify the pain points: Utilise e-learning platforms such as Learning Management Systems to assess the employees knowledge and what more information they could use; LMS will also help employers observe the employees’ performance, on the job and where soft skills could help ease up the process. Whether it’s a Customer Service Representative resolving customer complaints or a Quality Analyst speaking to developers, the right training can help everyone work seamlessly as a team.

Evaluate the performance: Observe the patterns of the employee records, collectively or individually. Based on the reports you can evaluate what exactly the employees lack and where you can incorporate the missing content in your training module.

Prioritize performance management: You have to observe whether the employees have been able to meet the set targets or if they need necessary alterations in their processes. This would help close the gap between the what the organization needs from the employees and what they are equipped to handle.

Assess the training resources: Take an active interest in updating the information available on your knowledge base. Maintain an updated Learning Management software with enough company literature so that your employees are not referring to outdated information.

Setting goals

Set SMART goals for your soft skills development program.

  • Specific: Your ideas should be clearly defined, such as all employees must be able to conduct a fluent pitch on their process or domain.
  • Measurable: Goals should include measurable units to assess the success, for eg: each test can have a situation based questionnaire that can gauge the success of the soft skills program year on year.
  • Attainable: Ensure that the goal you have set is a practical one. If you expect developers to be as polished speakers as sales team, it isn’t an achievable goal as the skill sets they bring to the table are vastly different. Acknowledge the difference in your audience.
  • Relevant: Keep your goals aligned with the greater vision of your future. If you are looking for your customer satisfaction ratings to increase, then make sure that the entire course material is aligned towards liaising with customers. This helps the initiative from being diluted down in terms of ROI.
  • Time-Bound: Set a practical deadline for your tasks. If you plan to hit a 60% increase in customer satisfaction, make sure you break it down into timebound milestones, such as 15% every quarter, so that you can analyze and course correct if required.

Using tools and technology

Learning Management Systems

As a trainer, your main tasks include monitoring employee progress and development of courses that enhance their skills and performance, these include soft skills as well as career oriented hard skills. Trainers can use tools such as Cloud-based learning management systems to ensure that L&D programs are being carried out effectively. There are many LMS software available in the market, and management can choose the ones that suit their company the best. It’s important to research every Learning Management platform, and rigorously assess it, so that the employees receive maximum benefits from LMS functions, features, and customer support response. When a company takes on a compatible LMS platform, it will help employers make and distribute courses, along with offering performance analysis to monitor employee progress. The performance analysis helps management understand how well the content is understood and retained by the employees; this will help employers evaluate and enhance the training modules, as well.

Content Authoring Tools

If you want to improve learner engagement for your soft skills course, then content authoring tools are the way to go. It’s vital that you choose a tool that is compatible with your LMS software and it shouldn’t be too complicated. There are chances you may find basic lessons that can be edited and repurposed. If you want to develop soft skills by creating interactive content then your organization must include content authoring tools; these tools also help integrate various media like audio, video, images, and so on, to come up with engaging lessons.

Video Editing Software

When you learn how to use a video editing software, you automatically gain an upper hand at coming up with an interesting training lesson that is engaging and easy to understand. A good video editing tool will help you illustrate various highlights of the training session and explain them, as well. Videos can take your soft skill courses to the next level.

  • Tracking and monitoring outcomes

    Soft skill training is a meticulous job. Understanding and training different personality types under one roof, to align them with the company’s set processes and ethics, needs a tremendous amount of skill. As the employees receive their training, management must monitor their growth and evaluate their performance. Without your feedback, the employees will never truly grasp the elements involved in behavioral skills, which can directly affect their workplace relationships.

    LMS tools can help you streamline projects and monitor the performance of each team or individuals. From evaluating their performance you can recognize areas where you can tweak your course to suit the audience better. Let the employees know that their efforts are not being ignored. They should be aware that their progress is evaluated regularly. Keep a recorded track of your employee's performance so that any analysis and evaluation is fair and unbiased.

  • Providing Feedback

    You can have a world-class soft skill development programme but without feedback, your trainees will never understand where they are going wrong. Once you track and analyze your trainees performance, you can give them constructive criticism and resources to help them understand their weak points. Feedback is a constant process to help trainees know where they stand all the time and there'll be few surprises; also, problems won’t escalate, as much. it isn't a once-a-year or a once-every-three-month event. Giving actionable feedback at every stage will help them get the best out of their training program. An LMS software can help you provide feedback on the fly based on the reports generated by the software. You can also recommend additional courses or extra hours for a trainee based on their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Rewarding good performance

    Motivation plays a crucial role in improving your organization's performance when it comes to work efficiency as well as in learning. Motivated employees can help take the company to the next level. Motivated employees are often more satisfied, innovative, and productive. Reward the learning efforts of their employees by using gamification and leaderboards that tell the entire organization about a learner’s achievements. This helps inculcate a healthy level of in group competition.

Developing Soft Skills FAQ

What is soft skill development?

Soft skills orbits around personal relationships, personality, and attitude. By nurturing these skills, you'll increase your work performance, build stronger relationships, and ideally work toward earning a promotion. In order to enhance your soft skills, you need to refine your communication skills, strengthen your interpersonal relationships, and be able to get the best out of your colleagues and team Soft skill development is the process of helping employees recognize their interpersonal and social skills that can be beneficial in the workplace, and for their personal growth. Employees can develop soft skills by developing a learning mindset, consuming regular content, implementing their learning in daily life and a healthy level of self reflection.

How do I improve the soft skills of my employees?

Communication plays a really important role in both our personal and business lives. When there's a miscommunication, it creates a lot of chaos and problems. Additionally, communication is vital if you're in sales or marketing. If your communication skills are good, it becomes easy for you to influence anybody. In order to enhance your skills quickly, with the aim to be understood, your goal (whether speaking or writing) should be conveyed clearly. To help improve the soft skills of your employees, create a Learning & Development program with the following goals.

  • Achieve crisp communication
  • Develop emotional intelligence
  • Foster a problem solving mindset
  • Cultivate critical thinking
  • Encourage creativity
  • Manage people
  • Negotiate effectively

What are the benefits of soft skills training?

Proper communication and telephone etiquette training can result in prompt customer service, better work safety practices, and productivity improvements. Additionally, teaching soft skills training to the workers will help the management demonstrate to their workforce that they value them enough to help them better their career prospects, improving loyalty and employee retention. Soft skills training can enhance corporate performance, profit, and staff optimism.

How to improve soft skills in the workplace?

If you're seeking a promotion or a raise, you are going to need to prove you'll add more value to the company. Often, the simplest ways to do this are continuously feeding your career with skills and knowledge that show you're worth the raise and promotion.

Here are some hacks you can practice while you’re at work-

Show Empathy: Many times, new skills are outside your department or area of influence, and responsibility. To beat this, consider networking internally. Understand people in other divisions, other offices, and on other teams.

Be Curious: Many companies have some kind of internal learning system. Go ask your benefits team. Know about training opportunities available to you. Study any tuition reimbursement benefits you'll have.

Seek a Mentor: Having a guide at the workplace is important when acquiring new skills and knowledge. An honest mentor will assist you to solve many challenges and roadblocks you may face.

Be Courageous: Once you see new opportunities to build on your skill set, don’t let anything hold you back.

Internalize Company Values: Study your company and understand the behaviours it rewards and punishes. If your company values proactiveness, you can suggest efficiency improvement wherever you see fit likewise if it values curiosity you can learn from other departments and processes across functions.

What are the best soft skill development courses on the market?

There are so many learning platforms to choose from LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, AlphaSkill, Lynda, etc, to name a few, are easily available courses online. These courses help you develop and improve soft skills amongst your employees with well designed ready to plug & play soft skill courses as well as custom content creation capabilities geared for employees across all domains.

Manish Kachwala

Manish Kachwala is the Co-Founder of AlphaLearn, India’s leading Learning Management System. A believer in lifelong learning, he is passionate about technology, startups, blogging and tennis. He is a veteran of the e-learning industry with over 20 rich years of experience in the space.

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