Soft skills rarely get the attention they deserve, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not valuable in the workplace. More and more, organizations are recognizing how soft skills in the workplace differentiate great employees (and businesses) from good ones.
Peggy Klaus, author of The Hard Truth about Soft Skills, summed it up well when she said: “soft skills get little respect, but they will make or break your career”.
LinkedIn recently published a list of the top in-demand soft skills, with management, communication, and customer service on the podium. Many people still think of these skills as innate qualities—you know, you’re either born with them, or you’re not. Fortunately, most (if not all) top soft skills can be trained and developed.
What are the most important soft skills for success in the workplace?
In many ways, soft skills might actually be the hardest skills to develop.
Top soft skills training for employees requires a lot of dedication from both employees and the organization. Employees must be eager to develop themselves, and the organization must be ready to provide the right learning opportunities and a supportive environment for their people to do so.
Let’s take a closer look at the top soft skills every professional should have in the modern workplace:
- Customer service
- Time management
- Critical thinking
The key to boosting employee engagement, productivity, and retention is effective management. It’s no surprise that management is among the top soft skills list, because it’s necessary for every department, all job operations, and remote work environments. And it’s needless to say that it’s crucial for business, sales, engineering, IT, marketing, and HR departments.
So, it’s important that you include management training into your in-demand soft skills L&D strategy for success in the workplace.
The specific management areas your training should cover are the following:
- Time management: Using time wisely to work as efficiently as possible
- Stress management: Following best practices to deal with stress and anxiety on a personal and professional level
- Operations management: Prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and developing the systems that help achieve these goals
- People management: Hiring, leading, and developing team members who help support the organization’s overall mission
Business and training visionary Dale Carnegie said that “90% of all management problems are caused by miscommunication”, and rapper Lauryn Hill sang in her song ‘Lost Ones’ that “miscommunication leads to complication.” Clearly, the problems of poor communication go far beyond social and industry barriers!
Poor communicators tend to believe that talking is more important than listening. But skilled communicators pay careful attention to all points of view, and listen closely to find the problem at the core of an issue. When they do talk, they adjust their tone and style to the audience. Their colleagues feel understood and respected, no matter the situation.
Also, the fast development of remote work has made communication skills more necessary than ever, as employees that work in remote/hybrid or asynchronous environments all communicate virtually. It’s important for them to be able to communicate clearly and across different communication mediums (instant messaging apps, emails, and video tools).
Without the ability to communicate skillfully, other top soft skills, like effective teamwork, management, and leadership, become impossible.
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3. Customer service
The customer experience of an organization is as important as its products, according to the opinion of almost 90% of buyers. Any employee that comes into contact with a customer (like salespeople, billing specialists, support team members) must have polished customer service skills.
With top-notch customer service, you enhance customer loyalty, increase your revenue, and drive sustainable growth.
Most of the times, when we talk about customer service training, we have product training in mind. But the training program could also help employees grow relevant soft skills like negotiation, active listening, complaint management, resilience, and more.
Ultimately, every organization hits or misses according to the quality of its leadership. Take the old saying: “employees don’t leave a bad company, they leave a bad manager”. Employee turnover is just one of the many costly risks of ignoring the role of leadership in the organization.
But what is leadership? Great leaders drive the vision and values of the company while, at the same time, keeping day-to-day activities in check. That’s because great leaders are more than managers. They’re inspirational, encouraging, and empathetic.
Luckily, these are all traits that can be trained. According to a study by TalentLMS and BambooHR, young professionals appear determined to grow into leaders and managers, and this is why the most in-demand skill for Gen Zers is leadership. Also, based on a study by TalentLMS and SHRM, employees seem to prioritize leadership training over other types of training.
So, how do you use top soft skills training for employees to cultivate leadership in your organization? Start by providing opportunities for leaders in the making to step up. Unlock hidden potential by encouraging employees to enact change in their departments, provide training to their peers, and volunteer for leadership training.
Problems aren’t always what they seem. That’s why the ability to unpick a situation and find the underlying issue is key to problem-solving. And so is a calm, measured demeanor in the face of challenges.
A skilled problem-solver knows that every problem has a solution, even if it’s outside of the proverbial box. They’re also a calming influence on their team.
While individuals may have a built-in knack for creativity and analytical ability, these traits can also be fostered in the workplace through employee training. Opportunities to share new ideas, a playful work environment, and leadership that values learning from mistakes are all conducive to developing problem-solving skills.
6. Time management
There are only so many minutes in the workday, and each one of them costs the organization money. So, it’s no surprise that time management is considered one of the most essential courses to include in your top soft skills training for employees.
Employees should be given sufficient information to decide which tasks are most urgent, versus which are most important. Urgent tasks obviously need to be done quickly, but important tasks have a greater impact on the organization. To identify these tasks, employees need a thorough understanding of the short and long-term goals of your business.
When employees prioritize well, they’re less likely to be overwhelmed by pressure and deadlines, especially if they work remotely or asynchronously. This is a great start to achieving a better work-life balance. Employees that can balance their physical and social needs with work will miss fewer deadlines due to illness or burnout.
A growing collection of ready-made courses that cover the soft skills
your teams need for success at work
Look closely at any successful organization and you’ll notice one thing: it functions as a team. There’s no space for meaningless competition, jealousy, or underhandedness in a team. No, for a team to win, all teammates need to feel safe and bonded.
But creating this ideal team environment is not easy, especially in remote work environments. That’s why you need your employees to be skilled team players.
Teamwork is one of the top soft skills training topics for employees, but what does this look like in action? The knack for teamwork is really a combination of other skills. A team player is perceptive, intuitive, and sensitive to their teammates’ needs. They’re also able to negotiate with their peers, while genuinely valuing their ideas.
Organizational operations and work environments (remote, in-office, hybrid) constantly change. And not just that–new people come in, some others leave, businesses change leadership, they get bought, and so on.
Thus, it’s essential that employees are able to adapt to different situations and circumstances that may change in the workplace. Adaptability demonstrates how well people can embrace change, and how they can adjust to it.
That’s why adaptability is among the top soft skills for employees, and in order to succeed in building such skills, your training needs to provide knowledge on self-management, optimism, calmness, analysis, and self-motivation.
Taking ownership of one’s responsibilities and mistakes is tough. No one likes to face blame. Even worse, blame often comes with serious consequences in the workplace. Yet, it’s almost impossible to learn from mistakes without taking responsibility for them.
One of the most important goals of soft skills training for employees is teaching your staff to take ownership of their decisions (even when they’re bad ones) because it prevents problems from festering in the dark. When employees are transparent about mistakes, they can be fixed faster and more effectively.
Finally, employees who take ownership of their work are more self-motivated. This takes a load off leadership to invest their effort where they’re most needed.
10. Critical thinking
Do you want employees who just do what they’re told? Or do you want employees who are able to interrogate instructions and processes? If your organization is forward-thinking, it’s the latter.
Employees who can evaluate the information available and make decisions critically can save significant costs and effort. Without critical thinking skills, employees can’t improve processes, innovate in their field, or spot pain points in their team.
You might be wondering how to coach employees on soft skills. In the case of critical thinking, the answer is simple but ambitious. Make transparency and constructive feedback core values in the organization. These values create an environment where employees are unafraid to question leadership and suggest improvements.
Soft skills training for workplace success
It’s time to recognize that soft skills are just as valuable as hard skills. Because without the right top soft skills, organizations suffer from issues like poor leadership, weak problem-solving, and miscommunication. The final result? Organizations that are held back from reaching their full potential.
The only way to compete today is by giving soft skills the respect they deserve. How? Coach employees on soft skills through ongoing training programs and development initiatives. Do your best to offer soft skills training that makes an impact and helps your teams grow!
Originally published on: 15 Aug 2018 | Tags: Soft Skills Development