Jobs, tasks, and processes become more and more automated. However, soft skills cannot yet be replicated by machines. Deloitte reports that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030”, and that the revenue of a business can increase by hiring employees with more soft skills.
In a rapidly changing world, how work gets done is also evolving. Whether we are talking about in-house, remote, or hybrid workforce, the way we approach the hiring process, together with the necessary skills needed for the job, has also changed. Soft skills (empathy, emotional intelligence, kindness, mindfulness, adaptability, integrity, optimism, self-motivation, and resilience) now play a massive role in the hiring process and the successful performance of employees.
And this is why soft skills have become very important over the years. But now, more than ever.
What are soft skills? Can they be trained?
Soft skills are interpersonal skills used across different jobs. They reflect the way people interact with each other through communication, adaptability, and creative thinking, among others. These skills are not traditionally taught in typical educational settings, but rather acquired through experience.
We shouldn’t confuse soft skills with personality traits, though. Unlike personality, soft skills and behaviors in the workplace can be taught and changed through formal and informal training.
Most people have somewhat fixed soft skills, but if they work in one or more areas they feel weak, they can definitely see improvement and stand out among other candidates or peers at work.
How can this be done, however?
For those already in a business setting, soft skills coaching is the most popular method used in order to guide employees towards strategies to build soft skills, motivate, support, and provide feedback. At the same time, personal development is always encouraged. For example, each individual can spend some time watching a small video or podcast in their free time to improve weak areas.
Why is coaching the best method to teach soft skills?
Developing people is not an easy task. It’s necessary to find the right combination of methodologies and strategies that work best for your workforce. Knowledge transfer and skills building can be done in various ways: on-the-job training, self-directed learning, online training, and more. But one of the most common methods for teaching, measuring, and articulating soft skills is soft skills coaching.
Let’s say you have identified an employee who needs to develop their leadership soft skills. Instead of offering them a generic course on leadership, you can bring in a mentor or coach. They’ll have the tools and techniques to identify specific areas for improvement. Working together, the coach and the employee, will make a plan, practice the relevant skills, and, ultimately, increase performance.
While in soft skills coaching, the mentor can better define the employee’s goals, current skills, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, Clara from the marketing team has found out she’s not good enough at communicating with the rest of the team. So a soft skills coach can create a specific development plan to provide her with the best pathway to improve her communication skills. While she’s following the suggested training plan, the coach can offer additional support and actionable feedback directly.
One more perk of leveraging soft skills coaching is that it can be successfully conducted both in a physical workspace and in a remote environment.
How to coach employees on soft skills
Coaching isn’t just about bringing in a coach who’ll run a few sessions, and that’s it. To reap all the benefits and see your people actually growing their soft skills through coaching, you need a step-by-step process. You need to think about—and plan—what happens before and after coaching, too. Let’s see how you can successfully implement coaching for soft skills training.
1. Identify soft skills gaps
Before setting up your strategy for soft skills coaching, it’s important to have this checklist in mind:
- Identify essential soft skills for each role
- Evaluate your employees against those skills
- Compare/Identify weak points and areas for improvement
Then, you can start creating your soft skills training strategy with a specific purpose.
2. Build your soft skills training plan
Whether you choose soft skills coaching as standalone training or as part of a more holistic learning and development program, planning your training and providing additional learning opportunities can bring better results.
Training on or reinforcing soft skills with the help of an LMS and online courses can set the foundations for developing existing or new skills with a coach or a mentor later on.
3. Invest in mentorship
In order to further encourage soft skills development, you can create a culture of mentorship where employees have access to the best environment and tools to bridge soft skills gaps hassle-free. This is because coaches help employees better engage and unlock their own potential. Also, coaching for soft skills assists employees in managing their own stress, which always brings better results for your business.
With soft skills coaching, you ensure your employees remain empowered, motivated, and focused while the transfer of soft skills becomes direct and seamless.
4. Provide opportunities for reflection and practice
How can you be sure your employees have successfully developed the necessary soft skills after completing their training and coaching sessions? You need to offer a safe environment where they can practice or fail.
Constructive feedback by a coach who is closely mentoring the whole process is what you should focus on. Employees need to feel safe to try new things with the encouragement of an experienced mentor.
8 soft skills you can develop through soft skills coaching
Now that you have a clear idea of how you should approach soft skills coaching, let’s explore which soft skills your company should develop when training employees. The list can never be definitive. However, there are specific themes you should consider.
Creative thinking is directly related to better problem-solving. Using resources in unexpected ways and successfully putting them together to address an issue is necessary in every workplace.
Let’s see this through an example.
Johan is the leader of his team. A great leader needs to promote creative thinking in their team and take novel approaches to how everyone interacts and works. But he felt his creativity skill was not strong enough to succeed in this.
After a soft skills coaching session on creativity, he started going around meetings and asking for ideas around business development. Those brainstorming sessions resulted in new, innovative projects that the team worked on. This way, Johan managed to encourage creativity within the team and noticed that people’s sense of belonging increased, too.
Leadership social skills are valuable for leadership positions. Employees in such roles need to know how to motivate, persuade, and influence people. They also need to know how to resolve conflicts or disputes, without using direct power.
It’s always better to reach an agreement than to impose an outcome or process for achieving a goal. Invest in a leadership training program and watch your team leaders bloom.
It’s necessary for employees to know how to work effectively with the rest of the team members. More work gets done by collaborating with each other instead of dealing with a situation alone. By solving challenges collaboratively, employees can also learn how to develop new skills faster.
This is important for your remote workforce as well. At some point, all your employees will need to work with another team member to reach a common goal (i.e. a project manager and a developer). Nurture the collaboration skill among employees by providing soft skills coaching. This will help form stronger collaboration bongs between team members, even if they are working remotely and don’t see each other on a daily basis.
4. Time management
In order to get more done without stressing out, employees need to learn how to manage their time. Effectively planning out, setting clear deadlines, and realizing dependencies and priorities fall under the umbrella of time management. If your workforce can master time management through coaching for soft skills, then productivity will rise, and stress levels will drop.
Change is certain. Things never stay the same at all times, be it in your business or in the whole world. Looking back at the past few years, especially with COVID-19, things have rapidly changed, and those who managed to thrive during these times were those who could easily adapt to the new norm.
Thus, adaptability is a skill your employees need to enforce during soft skills coaching.
6. Critical thinking
Curiosity goes hand in hand with critical thinking, as well as with problem-solving. All three of these are essential for employees, no matter their job description. Curious employees are more likely to engage, perform, and develop faster than others.
At the same time, people with critical thinking and problem-solving skills can find solutions to challenges in no time, leading to higher productivity and performance levels overall.
There is a common misconception that communication skills are necessary only for employees who work with customers and clients. This is not true. Good communication is encouraged for everyone in the workplace, even in a remote environment. Employees need to communicate effectively with one another so that there’s a clear understanding of progress, dependencies, processes, and expectations. Also, questions and doubts must be carefully expressed in a way that peers can understand and help.
Soft skills coaching on effective communication can assist in proactively dealing with misunderstandings and conflict, and at the same time, enhance the work culture, collaboration, and productivity.
8. Organizational skills
Think about how chefs pay more attention to a clear, organized workstation, rather than the actual preparation of food. Have you ever wondered why? People who are well-organized tend to be more effective and efficient at work.
Also, if you ensure your employees have good organizational skills, you rest assured that nothing will go wrong in case someone else has to pick up someone else’s work due to sick leave, workload changes, or someone leaving your business. By investing in coaching soft skills, you help your employees develop their organizational skills and thrive at work.
Soft skills for adaptable and successful professionals
Different seniority levels, functions, and even business needs may require coaching on different skills. Therefore, you should always take time to review your coaching and soft skills training programs in case you need to adjust accordingly.
All in all, all job roles and professions require knowledge of both hard and soft skills. Technical skills are the base for job-specific functions. But soft skills will define how effectively an individual can perform. And while hard skills are finite, soft skills are transferable to multiple professional fields and applicable in every job position.
Investing in soft skills training can help develop highly competent and successful professionals in every role. Keep in mind that it is an ongoing learning journey that needs careful planning, execution, monitoring, and adjustments.