Soft skills—buzz phrase or something you should be focused on? There’s debate floating around about whether or not soft skills training is valuable.
The Value of Soft Skills
Consider this research regarding the value of soft skills:
A Salesforce study showed that of all new hires who fail at their position within the first 18 months, for 89 percent it’s due to issues.
Today’s recent graduates and employees just beginning their careers have the highest level of formal education of all time, yet they’re lacking when it comes to soft skills. The development of interpersonal and communication skills isn’t something colleges focus on. For past generations, there were a lot of opportunities to develop these skills through job and life experience. Older generations also relied less on technology as a form of communication, so it was natural to hone interpersonal skills.
What employers are finding is that while they have a bright, well‐educated Millennial and even Generation X talent pool, they do have trouble tapping into talent that has the necessary interpersonal skills.
Which is why it can be advantageous for employers to invest in training.
Most employers agree soft skills are just as valuable and crucial as technical and “how‐to” skills. SalesForce reports 77 percent of employers say these skills are just as important as hard skills.
Something else worth noting?
According to research from the Mitchell Communications Group, miscommunication costs businesses a staggering $37 billion in the U.S. and the U.K. every year. That means $26 thousand per employee. 86 percent of business executives say ineffective communication and collaboration are two of the major causes of failure.
Still need to be convinced?
● Research has demonstrated that 60‐80 percent of all problems or issues within an organization are the result of difficult relationships between employees.
● A study looking at 500 global organizations showed when people scored highest in terms of emotional intelligence the business was also a top performer.
● Personality “conflicts” result in about 85 percent of all U.S. dismissals.
Soft Skills in the Digital Age
One of the reasons cited as to why today’s employees lack soft skills? The digital age and the rise of social media.
In reality, these are elements making soft skills even more important in many ways.
Companies can face total disaster if an employee miscommunicates via email or on a social media channel. Poor communication is on display for the world to see and can be recorded and used as a reference forever. Soft skills may refer to interpersonal communication, but that certainly extends to online channels.
Looking at social media in another way: if your employees don’t have strong in‐person interpersonal skills and there’s an adverse interaction between an employee and a client that can end up splashed all over social media as well.
Spotlight On: DuPont’s Emphasis on Soft Skills
DuPont is a company known for being a leader in corporate training and a trailblazer in the development of corporate universities.
The company created a whitepaper highlighting the importance of soft skills and named the following as skills where training is most important:
● Communication: Communication is perhaps the number one most important soft skill in which to train employees. DuPont points out that for effective workplace communication, employees must be able to identify a message and its purpose, choose the best means of delivery, deliver the message and then ask for and respond to feedback.
● Conflict Resolution: The DuPont white paper points out the inevitability of conflict in the workplace, but also says that given the right skill set, employees will be able to constructively and effectively address conflict that will lead to more successful outcomes.
● Coaching for Performance: This is an area of soft skills aimed directly at company leaders. To promote better employee performance, leaders must be able to motivate employees, and they must also be able to deliver feedback in the right way.
Other soft skills highlighted by DuPont include decision making and meeting effectiveness.
Some other soft skills areas gaining attention? Work ethic was emphasized within the Workforce Readiness Survey conducted by Instructure. Personal and culture alignment was the center of focus in the Talent Trend Report from Hyper Island. In The State of Corporate Training Programs in America survey from Udemy for Business, it was management, leadership and mentorship that were seen as the most critical skills for employees to maintain.
The Role of Today’s Learning Management System and Soft Skills Training
Despite the importance of soft skills, and the seeming shortage amongst the talent pool, there is hope for employers. It comes in the form of e‐Learning and learning management systems.
The technology and delivery style of today’s LMS are in‐line with Millennial and Generation X desire for technology, self‐paced training, and on‐demand availability. These are just a few of the features of e‐Learning that make it the number one way to provide soft skills training that’s effective, engaging and impactful.
The minds of younger employees are often described as “nonlinear” meaning rather than reading training from top to bottom, start to finish, Millennials and Generation X employees tend to want to jump around, hone in on key information, and skip back and forward within learning content. e‐Learning offers the ideal medium to address the needs of the nonlinear mind.
The most important tip for soft skills LMS training?
Create an emotional connection. Soft skills are driven by a sense of emotional intelligence, and the more emotionality you can evoke in training, the more effective it will be. Draw employees into training with the development of complex characters and case studies that not only show what soft skills are, but why they’re imperative to employees’ success or failure in the workplace.
It’s crucial to build robust situations that mimic the real world since soft skills are inherently situationally dependent.
It’s also valuable to integrate an abundance of feedback into LMS‐based soft skills training. Consider doing this by implementing elements of collaboration within training. Other options include forums or webinars in which employees can discuss and receive feedback after completing an e‐Learning module.
So let us know your thoughts—do you find there’s a lack of soft skills amongst today’s talent pool and if so, what are you doing to address it within your organization?