Closing the Soft Skills Gap: Tips to Help Leadership Identify Soft Skills Missing from the Workplace
Soft skills gap is an important factor to figure out. In the skills gap conversation, a lot of attention goes to so-called “hard” skills. That is logical, though. You need people with the skills required for specific roles in place throughout the organization.
However, too often, that leads to overlooking soft skills. We spend so much time making sure that our new hires or those we promote have the knowledge to do the job that we neglect whether they have the skills required to help create a thriving business. The good news is that soft skills can be developed within anyone. The bad news is that it takes time and intentionality to identify which are missing from your workplace. In this article, we will cover crucial tips to help you do just that. (download free Bridging the Soft Skills Gap eBook)
Some Important Soft Skill Gaps
People Don’t Play Well with Others
The most common reason that causes soft skill gap is that people don’t play well with others. Collaboration and teamwork are two of the most important soft skills for any organization, regardless of industry or niche. It’s easy to lose sight of them, though. After all, if you’ve got departments working on collaborative projects and things are getting done, doesn’t that mean your organization is doing fine? That is not necessarily the case.
Take a deeper look at each department. Do you see employees jockeying for position? Demanding individual recognition for team projects? Refusing to share information with other departments on collaborative projects because the data is perceived as belonging to that department?
These are all good signs that you need to focus on developing better collaboration and teamwork skills. While there is nothing wrong with recognizing the efforts of individuals (that can go a long way toward building engagement and cementing employee loyalty), it should not come at the expense of team or cross-department projects. If you notice that employees or entire teams are not playing well with others, it is time to invest in collaboration and teamwork-related training.
The Message Is Lost in the Noise
Another soft skill gap is an ineffective communication. What is more vital to business success than communication? In a nutshell: nothing. Without accurate, ongoing communication, team members cannot work together, departments cannot dovetail to pursue business objectives, and customers’ needs and concerns go unnoticed.
Take a long, hard look at your organization. Does it seem like certain messages are being drowned out? Where is communication faltering and why?
Investing in communication training is a vital consideration for all organizations. This is one area where most everyone can benefit, even those who have relatively strong existing skills. However, don’t leave it at training – make sure that you have the right tools and platforms for your team members to communicate with one another. That means investing in technology in many cases (thankfully, a lot of high-quality technology is available free or for very little money). It also means that leadership needs to buy into the need for and importance of communication.
Innovation Is the Exception, Not the Rule
Innovation has become something of a buzzword today, but leaders need to realize it’s much more than an increasingly tired trope. It’s a crucial feature of successful businesses. Innovation drives performance and success. Without it, you’re forced to follow in the footsteps of others.
If you’re not seeing innovation in your workforce, there may be any number of reasons for it. One may be that your team lacks important soft skills, namely creativity, and problem-solving capabilities. Those can be trained and developed through a modern learning management system (LMS). However, it may also be a sign of a deeper problem.
Often, a lack of innovation is due to both a shortage of soft skills, as well as a corporate culture that does not value learning and development. This often occurs because of an aversion to risk. Risk costs money, time, and resources, so it’s natural for businesses to want to limit it. However, when you limit risk, you also stifle innovation.
So, while you’re considering whether to provide problem-solving and creativity-related training, you should also take a hard look at your culture. Are you so risk-averse that you disallow innovation? Are you stifling the very thing you need to power success?
That Personal Connection Doesn’t Exist
A business is built out of many components – employees are one of the most important. However, human beings are social creatures. They don’t generally interact like cogs in a machine, and if you notice that team members interact just enough to do their jobs and no more, it should be a red flag. Chances are good that some soft skills are missing.
What we’re talking about here are interpersonal skills required for employees to build relationships with one another. These include things like active listening, empathy, cooperation, verbal and nonverbal communication, and more. Without strong interpersonal skills, your teams will never be more than a loose collection of separate individuals, incapable of achieving their full potential.
Signs that indicate this problem can include employees interacting no more than is required to get the job done, limited communication between team members, a lack of humor during interactions, and the like. If team member interactions feel stiff, forced, or formal, chances are good that you need to invest in some soft skills training.
There’s No Accountability
Accountability is vital within any business and having no accountability is a common soft skill gap. Employees, team leaders, managers, and others should take ownership of the processes in which they are involved. If they do not, it can lead to situations where employees try to “pass the buck” and blame others for failures and shortcomings.
The secret to accountability is developing leadership skills. Leadership is a soft skill, like communication and empathy, and it has wide-ranging implications for your organization. It’s not just about accountability during processes, either, but affects things like in-house promotion.
The Right LMS Can Help
If you’ve spotted the signs and symptoms of missing soft skills, don’t despair. You can turn the situation around with a modern learning management system and a little intentionality. The most important thing is to realize that your organization is lacking the skills. Based on that, you can create an action plan and roll out training for your employees. For more information, please contact eLeaP.