Soft skills: An important challenge for today’s trainers

Soft skills: An important challenge for today's trainersSoft skills are very unique in terms of how they are taught and learned. Unlike hard skills, which focus on ensuring an employee successfully masters a certain skill to directly apply in the workplace, soft skills are really all about changing an employee’s emotions, behaviors or reactive techniques.

Soft skills are typically what employers are trying to teach with most leadership training and development coursework and eLearning, but they find themselves with a challenge when it comes to course design and effectiveness.

The Soft Skills Challenge

The big question becomes, can you really teach soft skills? Soft skills are not really skills at all, but are instead interpersonal tendencies, and unique qualities that set one employee apart from another.

Can you teach an employee to be a leader if he or she does not have the intrinsic qualities of a leader?

In addition to the debate of whether or not it is even possible to teach soft skills, there is also the issue of measurability. With hard skills it is fairly easy to test for comprehension, whether it is in the form of a quiz, or simply by looking at job performance. So how do you begin to measure whether or not your soft skills-based eLearning is even having an effect?

While there are challenges to overcome, in reality it is possible to foster the development of soft skills in your employees, but the approach to this training and development is unique and should be treated as such, particularly when compared to training and eLearning utilized to teach hard skills.

Soft Skills’ Importance in Today’s Workplace

Soft skills cannot be overlooked—in fact, wide-reaching research shows soft skills are not only absolutely necessary in today’s workplace, but they are also one of the areas in which Millennials are most lacking.

These new employees entering the workforce have more education and more impressive resumes than any generation before in many cases, but they are falling short in their careers because of their lack of soft skills. Millennials have grown up in an environment dependent on technology that eliminates the need for face-to-face encounters and interpersonal relationships, and the result is a workforce devoid of what is needed to advance forward.

So with that being said, how do employers approach the teaching of soft skills to employees, in order to ensure everyone is able to thrive?

eLearning’s Relationship to Soft Skills Training

At first glance, eLearning and soft skills training seem to be inherently oppositional concepts. After all, are not soft skills about how you interact with people, and eLearning is based on a relationship with a computer?

This may be true, but that does not mean you should count eLearning out in terms of your soft skills training.

eLearning provides the opportunity to use a variety of different multimedia components like scenarios and videos, and these are great tools not just for teaching soft skills, but also for presenting a general image of who your company is, what your corporate culture is all about, and the overall image you want your employees to present to the world on a day-to-day basis.

eLearning provides a great foundation for the introduction of soft skills training, which can then move into a blended learning format where employees utilize the information they have seen in their eLearning and apply it to face-to-face situations.

Additionally, when developing eLearning for soft skills, it is a good idea to include a heavy focus on collaboration. Soft skills are as much about teamwork and learning to work with others to problem-solve as they are about learning to be a leader, so take advantage of social components available with eLearning. Include ample opportunities for communication between employees, as well as a platform for the general sharing of ideas. One tip is to introduce a scenario which is difficult to approach and solve, and then let learners work together to come to a solution.

Finally, if you are creating eLearning for soft skills, simulations are extremely valuable. In order to be effective, research shows employees need to be presented with an extensive range of simulation situations that will allow them to explore their response to any number of situations, and simulations should also include feedback. With eLearning, feedback can be incredibly easy to provide, particularly in the form of a brief quiz after simulations. Feedback should be as detailed as is possible within the eLearning module, and students should have the opportunity to continuously explore the simulations repeatedly, for the most effectiveness.

A few more tips for developing soft skills eLearning include:

  • Keep the information very clear and concise when you are presenting it to the learner.
  • Everything you are trying to teach the student should build on their previous knowledge and experience. Create eLearning that logically progresses, as this is an effective soft skills training approach.
  • As with all eLearning, for hard or soft skills, make sure you are showing a clear link between the skills and why the learner needs them. A huge problem with soft skills training is the lack of value employees see in it, but you can work to eliminate this misconception by clearly defining why it is truly valuable.

How do you approach the training of soft skills in a way that is unique from your hard skills eLearning and training?

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