There is much debate at present surrounding the importance of soft skills and their importance in the work place. What’s clear is that while much investment is made in technical proficiency (so called “hard skills”), this only accounts for 20% of job success. The remaining 80% depends on how well we interact with other people – commonly called “soft skills”. Clearly there is nothing “soft” about anything that represents 80% of job success. Renowned organizations such as Google and LinkedIn have drawn the same conclusion and are changing their recruitment and training strategies accordingly. Does your organization recognize the importance of investing in soft skills courses?
Trust Google to take a data approach
Google analyzed 20 years’ worth of hiring, appraisal, firing, and promotion data. The study, ‘Project Oxygen’ produced some eye-opening results regarding the keys to professional success.
The project concluded that, ‘among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills.’
Research from LinkedIn also shows a change in emphasis from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ skills. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner recently gave an interview highlighting the soft skills gap.
“Somewhat surprisingly … interpersonal skills are where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance,”. Weiner concluded. “Communication is the No. 1 skills’ gap”.
There is a clear and existing demand for soft skills expertise across the board. To address this gap, well-targeted soft skills courses (be they face-to-face, blended, virtual or digital) must be deployed by HR and L&D professionals to equip employees with the right tools for the job.
Here are 10 essential soft skills courses that every professional should attend to perform effectively in their role:
1. Communicating with impact (verbal)
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin believes that effective communication is key, and it is an “art” that we can all learn to master.
While job platform Monster found that across 943,008 market-wide job postings, good oral communication is one of the most in demand soft skills.
A brilliant idea is only truly brilliant if it can be understood clearly and fully by others.
Think about how many business ideas have failed at the first hurdle, which is often at the point of retelling it to others. Impact is everything when it comes to verbal communication and it’s a learned skill set.
2. Effective business writing
We’ve all heard stories about highly educated candidates who didn’t spell check or grammar check their CV before applying for a job. Those simple errors don’t just crop up at the recruitment stage – many companies suffer from a lack of effective writing skills.
From emails to business cases to client proposals, the better your writing skills are, the better the impression you’ll make on the people around you including your boss, your colleagues, and your clients.
3. Problem solving and creativity
Employers want professionals who know how and when to solve problems independently and when to ask for help. You can gain problem-solving skills by thinking clearly, methodically and pausing.
Such solutions rely entirely on critical thinking and a large helping of creativity, because sometimes the best solutions aren’t the obvious ones.
Creativity isn’t a rare gift, we all possess it. Training and coaching are essential to building confidence in this vital skill set.
4. Influencing and persuading
Self-esteem, empathy and belief. Three key personal qualities that hugely impact our ability to influence and persuade. For some, this is an everyday challenge which often lies just beyond reach.
We can all improve our success rate in this area by growing our confidence and ability in skills like empathy, listening, and building rapport.
When delivered as a rich bundle of soft skills courses, influence can suddenly fall within our reach and great things can be achieved.
5. Time management
‘The process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.’
In reality, most of us are never taught how to turn up on time, plan a week, a month or even a day of our lives efficiently, let alone a 6-month project involving a team of people.
What’s missing are simple yet incredibly effective techniques that can be developed through soft skills courses to make our working lives more productive and easier to manage.
6. Presentation skills and public speaking
Is sweat building up on the back of your neck? Is your heart beating faster? You are not alone. Many professionals suffer from glossophobia, a tangible fear of speaking in public.
Public speaking is made to look easy by some, yet a disaster by others.
Again, this “talent” is a skill set that can be developed. Think of the world’s most famous public speakers – Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr and Steve Jobs and remember that they all learned their techniques from someone else.
7. Negotiation skills
‘The art of the deal’ is a phrase that has been in the public eye in recent years. It makes negotiation sound like an abstract trick only achievable by a gifted minority.
In reality, the need for solid negotiation skills is crucial to many roles. Every negotiation starts with a careful process of preparation, unfolds within a predictable format, and relies on understanding, empathy, careful communication, and above all compromise.
Being able to build this skill set within your team will have a huge impact.
Some people lack the confidence to make decisions, while many simply want to avoid making them at all. Both of these ineffective approaches are incredibly harmful to organizations. Where a learned process is lacking, fear of failure is rarely far behind.
Well-designed soft skills courses aimed at effective decision making create a more confident approach by adding tried and tested processes to the equation. Take away the fear, and more effective decisions aren’t far behind.
9. Giving and receiving feedback
Managing and developing people relies heavily on being able to appraise, review and improve performance effectively.
Done badly it can destroy a much-needed culture of mutual trust between those giving feedback, and those receiving it.
Attending impactful soft skills courses in this delicate area can help maintain trust through approaches like focussing feedback on performance rather than on the person. If you’ve ever sat through an appallingly delivered review, then you’ll understand how vital this type of training is.
10. Conflict management
Two people can’t be expected to agree on everything at all times. Since relationship conflicts are inevitable, learning to deal with them in a healthy way is crucial.
How many people in your workplace possess the skill set and experience to diffuse a conflict? How valuable would it be to your organization if more people possessed this soft skill?
While there are many important soft skills, it’s widely agreed that the 10 listed here are essential and as vital to professional success as employee credentials.
Soft skills courses and coaching can’t continue to be a luxury item, bolted on to hard skills training as an afterthought.
Business leaders, entrepreneurial gurus and even politicians agree that the shortage of business soft skills needs to be addressed. If you find your team lacking in any of those listed here, the solution is quite simple. Make deploying soft skills training top of your priority list.
It has never been easier with new learning methods and easy to deploy technology to provide just-in-time, microlearning – wherever, whenever and how often your employees wish to learn. After all, learning is a very personal event and making it as easy and as effective to learn can only be a good thing, right?