When you set out to hire a new employee, you might be focused on whether they have the education and experience needed to complete the everyday functions of the position. In many cases, employers make hard skills, such as familiarity with software programs or the ability to code a website, their main priority. But in so doing, they might be inclined to forget about the importance of soft skills.
Although soft skill acquisition is often considered to be an afterthought, they’re essential to the success of your team. And even if a candidate doesn’t come into the job mastering certain soft skills, your organization can do its part to help them develop those abilities over time — assuming you’ve invested in training programs that can take employees to the next professional level.
Let’s discuss some important soft skills below, as well as the steps your organization can take to foster the development of those skills among your staff.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills can be loosely defined as abilities or talents that relate to interpersonal relationships and problem-solving. They’re far more difficult to measure than hard skills, as they really aren’t as tangible in terms of data or testing. However, they’re no less important than hard skills — and in many situations, they may actually matter more!
Examples of soft skills include active listening, collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence, customer service, leadership, organization, time management, accountability, and much more. Many soft skills do overlap and we often use them without realizing it, which can make them even harder to define. But the main foundation of soft skills is strong communication.
It’s important to note that every person has some kind of soft skill (or many!) to offer — but every person also has room to improve on existing soft skills and even develop new ones. That brings us to the critical nature of soft skills training in the workplace.
How Can Businesses Improve Soft Skills Training?
Of course, it’s a good idea to screen for soft skills before hiring a new employee in order to ensure they’re a sound cultural fit who can bring a lot to the table. However, business owners and managers need to realize that they’re responsible for helping their employees improve those skills over time. Not only is this a great opportunity to retain employees, but it can also allow you to grow your business.
Although some employees might have a natural knack for leadership or an ingrained ability to be active listeners, soft skills can be built upon with the proper training. You can activate your organization’s soft skills training opportunities by:
- Sharing compelling learning materials
- Diversifying training course topics
- Assessing the soft skills needs of individual team members
- Developing a positive learning culture
- Reinforcing training sessions with emails, videos, and subsequent learning
- Offering access to digital or blended learning courses
- Making soft skills training entertaining and relevant to daily work and relationships
In order for businesses to thrive, soft skills need to be treated as both essential and as improvable. While hiring motivated and already-skilled employees can help, that’s only the first step. You’ll need to invest in soft skills development and training — and consider it to be a critical part of your company’s growth, rather than as an added perk — if you want to be a leader in your industry.