According to a Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn Learning, training for Soft Skills is the #1 priority for talent development in 2018. In this digital age, adaptability is paramount. While encouraging and developing Hard Skills will always be essential, the demand for Soft Skills is continuing to grow. Leading industry experts and organizational partners agree that Soft Skill training should be the top focus for talent development in 2018.[i]
What We Mean by “Soft Skills”
Soft Skills are the personality traits, attributes, inherent social cues and communication abilities that help to characterize how a person interacts with others. Unlike hard skills that are learned, Soft Skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow people to “read” others.[ii] Although they are very different, Soft Skills and hard skills go hand in hand. Soft Skills support an individual’s ability with hard skills. For example, a person can be taught how to perform surgery, but the individual would also need the discipline to continue learning to earn their medical license. Once the hard skill is gained, it takes Soft Skills to exhibit it and demonstrate it effectively.
Examples of Key Soft Skills
Several examples of key Soft Skills are abilities, such as empathy, self-motivation, communication leadership, responsibility, teamwork, problem-solving, decisiveness, ability to work under pressure, flexibility, negotiation, and conflict resolution.
- Ability to adjust tone and style according to their audience.
- Ability to comprehend and act efficiently on instructions.
- Ability to explain complex issues to colleagues and clients.
- Ability to delegate clearly and comprehensibly.
- Ability to work well without round-the-clock supervision.
- Positive Attitude.
- Ability to demonstrate reliability and commitment.
- Ability to fit efficiently into an organizational structure without the need for constant oversight.
- A generally positive attitude and outlook.
- Ability to communicate effectively.
- An aptitude for both self-motivating and motivating others.
Why Experts Agree that Soft Skill Training Should be the #1 Focus
Organizations are placing a greater value on Soft Skills because nearly every position requires employees to engage with others in some way. So it makes sense that being able to interact well with others would be important in any job. Soft Skills are particularly important in jobs where employees will typically be in direct contact with customers. It takes a number of Soft Skills to be able to listen to a customer and provide that customer with the best service.
Another reason why Soft Skills are so important is that they are transferable, and can be used regardless of the position, industry or company. A study released in August of 2016 found that “94% of recruiting professionals believe an employee with stronger Soft Skills has a better chance of being promoted to a leadership position than an employee with more years of experience, but weaker Soft Skills.”[iv] Promoting from within an organization can save an organization both time and money. The recruiting process and the interview process can add up, both financially and time spent finding the perfect candidate. Promoting from within bypasses that process shortens the learning curve, and allows the organization to maintain its investment in employee knowledge.
Soft Skills Can Be Taught
Indeed, Soft Skills can be taught. However, the approach to teaching Soft Skills is different than how most hard skills are taught. Because Soft Skills are thought of as attributes and attitudes, they need to be developed rather than taught. A good soft skill trainer will encourage an individual or group to learn how to strengthen these personality traits. There are many different approaches to developing Soft Skills. One of our clients, Citgo, recently rolled out a new skills development curriculum for hundreds of their employees. Our solution was to assemble qualified, regionally located trainers in each of the four company locations. Our trainers provided instructor-led training (ILT) to support Citgo’s initiatives.
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[i] learning.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/learning/en-us/pdfs/linkedin-learning-workplace-learning-report-2018.pdf, page 13.
[ii] Doyle, Alison. “What Are Soft Skills?” The Balance Careers, www.thebalance.com/what-are-soft-skills-2060852
[iii] “Soft Skills.” Wikijob.co.uk, www.wikijob.co.uk/content/interview-advice/competencies/soft-skills