Have you ever wondered why some teams thrive while others struggle, despite having similar technical expertise? The answer lies in the often-overlooked realm of soft skills training for employees — the intangible qualities that make work and communication more accessible and more effective.
So, what exactly are soft skills, and why are they crucial for building teams? Soft skills are foundational abilities that transcend specific roles and enable individuals to effectively navigate challenges, collaborate, communicate, and adapt in dynamic work environments.
They are the secret ingredient that transforms an ordinary manager into an exceptional leader, driving business results and fostering a positive work culture. But how can managers prioritize soft skill development and bridge this skills gap? The journey starts with understanding what soft skills entail and recognizing their immense value in achieving your organization's goals.
Why are soft skills necessary?
A report by Deloitte highlights the need and the value of soft skills and their importance, particularly when building remote teams that operate online. While technical expertise and knowledge are undoubtedly crucial, the intangible qualities truly set managers apart. Think about it: a manager's success hinges not only on their ability to navigate spreadsheets and analyze data but also on their capacity to communicate effectively, motivate their team, and resolve conflicts.
Can you imagine a manager who lacks empathy or cannot connect with their employees on a deeper level? Or a leader who struggles to adapt to changing circumstances and fails to inspire confidence in their team?
Soft skills act as the glue that holds a managerial role together, fostering strong relationships, promoting collaboration, and enhancing overall productivity. They enable managers to lead with emotional intelligence, make sound decisions, and create a positive work culture that breeds success.
How soft skills training for employees has evolved
When Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research firm, and American Express surveyed more than 1,000 managers in 2013, 61% said soft skills ranked above hard skills and digital/tech competence. Managers rated the top three as prioritizing work (87%), a positive attitude (86%), and teamwork (86%).
Adecco Staffing USA’s 2013 report on the State of the Economy and Employment polled 500 senior-level executives on what they viewed as the top skill deficiency in the workplace.
Surprisingly, they pointed to a lack of soft skills (communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration) as the shortcoming they’d most like to see filled. Soft skills were chosen over technical or computer expertise by a margin of 44% to 22%, respectively.
“It’s interesting to see how the definition of the skills gap has evolved from being so heavily focused on technical and computer skills to ‘soft’ skills related to communication and creativity,” Janette Marx, then SVP at Adecco Staffing USA, said in a release detailing the results of the survey.
According to Marx, higher education institutions may neglect soft skills training in today's digital world. Yet, as the survey indicates, employers desire technical mastery and specific personal characteristics. Marx explains, “Schools must integrate hard and soft skill sets into their curriculums, which will help better prepare candidates and strengthen our country’s workforce.”
Soft skills are essential for millennial and Gen Z employees
Soft skills are essential for millennial and Gen Z employees in today's workforce. These generations value collaboration, adaptability, and meaningful relationships in their careers. Soft skills enable them to work in teams effectively, adapt to rapid changes, communicate clearly, and build strong relationships with colleagues and clients.
Leadership and influencing skills are crucial as they progress in their careers while focusing on work-life balance and well-being aligns with their priorities. By nurturing and developing soft skills, organizations can engage and retain millennial and Gen Z employees, leverage their unique strengths, and create a positive and fulfilling work environment for these generations.
Furthermore, the digital era has significantly shifted how millennial and Gen Z employees interact and communicate. Soft skills are vital in bridging the digital divide and ensuring effective communication in a tech-driven world. While these generations are often tech-savvy, they must also master soft skills such as active listening, empathy, and clear written and verbal communication to foster meaningful connections and collaboration.
What are the soft skills that your team needs?
Before improving your team’s soft skills, know the competencies or interpersonal skills you want them to develop. This is what solid soft skills look like:
- Communication. Written or verbal, team members must be able to converse with each other effectively. This applies whether giving instructions on completing a project or negotiating with clients. Communication skills, however, go beyond merely conveying thoughts to others; it requires team members to listen with an open mind, ask the right questions and understand and respect the other person’s point of view and ideas.
- Problem-solving. Teams frequently encounter challenges. Overcoming those hurdles involves identifying the root problem and then devising innovative solutions. Critical thinking and creativity are necessities when teams confront those challenges. Not only do they conceive solutions, but they evaluate all possible options to arrive at the appropriate answer as well.
- Flexibility. Sometimes, your team’s function and purpose change due to organizational structure shifts. Rather than being rattled, your team members adapt to those changes and quickly assume new roles and duties with a positive attitude. Team members also serve different functions depending on the project. Sometimes, a team member will lead; other times, they will be part of the group. They are flexible enough to fill both roles.
- Collaboration. To work effectively as a team, members collaborate on projects to ensure their success. In addition to taking responsibility for their jobs, team members further support all team members in their tasks. Teams function best when all members cooperate and truly operate as a team.
- Time management. Today’s sped-up workplace requires prioritizing tasks to meet essential deadlines. This can only be accomplished when team members manage their time so deadlines for essential projects are met. Yet, team members don’t lose sight of other projects and tasks. They organize their schedules to maintain a consistent workflow.
Notice how all these soft skills are intertwined! Problem-solving requires creativity, communication, and the ability to collaborate. Flexibility and proper time management enable team members to meet deadlines even in the most hectic circumstances.
Your team's success depends on members demonstrating soft skills and possessing the right technical competencies.
Here are some scenarios where a manager can demonstrate and build soft skills in their team
Scenario: The team is facing a challenging project with tight deadlines.
Soft Skill: Leadership
Manager's Demonstration: The manager sets a clear vision and provides guidance on tackling the project. They encourage open communication and collaboration, ensuring that team members have the necessary resources and support. The manager motivates the team, boosts morale during difficult times, and recognizes and appreciates their efforts and achievements.
Scenario: A team member is struggling with a particular skill or task.
Soft Skill: Problem-solving
Manager's Demonstration: The manager identifies the team member's area of struggle and offers additional training needs or guidance. They provide constructive feedback and highlight areas for improvement. The manager invests time in mentoring the team member, providing ongoing support, and empowering them to develop the necessary skills.
Scenario: The team is blocked on certain tasks because of miscommunication.
Soft Skill: Conflict Resolution and Communication
Manager's Demonstration: The manager facilitates team discussions to address conflicts and improve communication. They promote active listening, encourage open dialogue, and establish respectful communication guidelines. The manager helps team members understand different perspectives, find common ground, and work towards resolving conflicts in a collaborative manner.
Scenario: The team has to focus on out-of-the-box thinking to find a solution.
Soft Skill: Collaboration and Creativity
Manager's Demonstration: The manager fosters a collaborative work environment that encourages idea-sharing and creative thinking. They promote cross-functional collaboration, facilitate brainstorming sessions, and create opportunities for team members to contribute their unique perspectives. The manager recognizes and values diverse ideas, allowing innovative solutions to emerge.
Three strategies for teaching soft skills
A great way to develop your team’s soft skills is through online instruction and practical applications of those skills in the workplace.
- Make it a formal, ongoing training program. This doesn’t mean sending team members to hours of classroom instruction. Online courses in business writing, public speaking, team leadership, and interpreting body language convey these essential competencies. Team members access and complete these digital lessons during their workday, and you, as their manager, can view their progress.
- Let team members practice their soft skills. Once they’ve completed the courses and are certified, allow team members to use those skills in the workplace. Have each team member lead a meeting to reinforce his or her communication and public speaking abilities. Assign each team member a project for them to spearhead.
- Model soft skills. As the leader, you should model soft skills behavior daily in the workplace for your team members. Always look for opportunities to showcase your interpersonal skills, and coach team members to perfect those abilities as well. As team members progress through the courses and employ soft skills in the workplace, encourage them and offer constructive feedback when necessary.
In conclusion, managers are crucial in improving team dynamics and bridging the skill gap by prioritizing soft skill training. Managers can create a more peaceful and productive work environment by recognizing the importance of soft skills and actively investing in developing them within their teams.
Effective communication, problem-solving abilities, collaboration, and other soft skills foster stronger relationships, encourage innovation, and enhance overall team performance. To support managers in cultivating these essential skills, GoSkills offers a comprehensive lineup of resources and courses on effective soft skill training.
Want to improve the soft skills in your business? Take a look at our comprehensive lineup of affordable soft skills courses that your team can use on their own schedule.
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