Employee engagement is the unicorn every organization is chasing today. Coupled with the ongoing complications from COVID-19, it leads to a complicated situation. Thankfully, there are proven ways that you can use a learning management system to drive engagement. One of those is to help your employees develop crucial soft skills.
What Are “Soft” Skills?
So-called soft skills are anything but. It’s an unfortunate misnomer, as it gives the impression that these skills are unimportant, even frivolous. This is particularly true in organizations with negative cultures. To make matters worse, this characterization hurts your employee engagement efforts as people just don’t see why they have to take training in these so-called soft skills.
The truth is that soft skills are neither soft nor frivolous. They are crucial for success. Exploring the capabilities that fall under this header gives the lie to the idea that they’re not important:
- Active listening
- Cultural and emotional intelligence
Any business leader can see the value in cultivating these skills. Why is it such a challenge, though?
Why Is Developing Soft Skills So Challenging?
Many different things make it challenging to develop soft skills. One of those is company culture. If communication, active listening, and empathy are not part of your culture, it becomes difficult to see the value in any skills related to those things.
Another reason is that it is often difficult to quantify the value businesses can reap by helping employees master soft skills. For instance, it’s pretty simple to determine just how much return you will see by training an employee in a “hard” skill, such as bookkeeping or inventory control. How much value might your organization see by training someone in how to collaborate, though? How much value will the business derive from an employee becoming more empathetic?
This difficulty in measuring return often leads decision-makers to downplay the importance of soft skills. The issue is that, while calculating a return can be hard, it is critical, as soft skills are ultimately what drive business success.
How Do Soft Skills Drive Business Success?
Once upon a time, business owners assumed that the only thing necessary for success was to assemble a team with the hard skills necessary to do the job. You hired someone with a background in accounting for your bookkeeping needs. An individual with advertising skills went onto the marketing team. An experienced salesperson wound up in the sales department. Those hard skills were seen as the only things required because they spoke directly to an individual’s (or team’s) ability to play their assigned role in the business.
The issue is that human beings are not computers. Businesses are not well-oiled machines, no matter how much we might like to think of them that way. Organizations are messy, organic things because they are filled with human beings and all the baggage that we bring with us.
To thrive, human beings need more than just inputs that lead to outputs. We need leaders who can communicate with us. We need coworkers who can empathize, and team members who can collaborate. We need managers who can listen deeply to our challenges and help us grow and develop, becoming not just a more valuable business resource, but a more well-rounded human being.
Soft skills are what allow us to achieve these things. They are also the things that truly help an organization grow and thrive. After all, without engaged employees, an organization will simply devolve into chaos and confusion, struggle with a negative culture that drives top talent to competitors, and may ultimately fail.
How to Build Soft Skills in Employees
Given the incredible importance of building soft skills in employees and creating a deeper sense of engagement, decision-makers must understand how to achieve that goal. It requires more than just putting in a training DVD. Upskilling employees requires a strategic approach based on specific knowledge of where you are and where you need to go as an organization.
1. Where Are You?
First, you need to determine where you’re at in terms of soft skills. What’s lacking? What skill gap must be closed? Without determining where you are, it is impossible to chart a path forward. All of your LMS-based soft skills training should stem from this assessment.
2. What About Talent?
Now you need to determine who will be trained in what areas. Yes, many soft skills are valuable across the board, but it is important to take a tailored approach to employee development. Who already has strong listening skills? Do any employees have a natural aptitude for leadership? Who is the weakest in collaborative skills? Use this information to inform your employee development plan.
3. Create Individual Plans
With a better understanding of your team members and where you want to go as an organization, it becomes possible to create custom training plans for each employee. Personalized training can dramatically improve engagement levels, not just when employees master new skills, but in its own right. It shows that your organization sees the employee, values them, and is investing in their future. When employees feel seen, valued, and supported, their engagement level skyrockets.
4. Delivery Methods
Spare some thought to how you will deliver soft skills training. Your LMS will be an invaluable tool here, particularly in today’s remote work world, but you should carefully consider which employees learn best through which content type. For instance, webinars and gamified content can deliver the same message but in very different ways and are suitable for learners with dissimilar needs and learning preferences.
5. Chunk It Up
Finally, make sure you’re delivering training in bite-sized chunks. Our brains digest new information better when it’s provided in small pieces, rather than in huge gluts. So, rather than an hour-long presentation, chunk it up into six 10-minute pieces to ensure better information retention.
Go Soft to Succeed
It is more apparent than ever before that soft skills are as necessary as hard skills for organizations to succeed. It is also becoming apparent that helping employees develop soft skills can dramatically increase engagement and bolster your organization’s ability to succeed.