Soft skills training can help both employers and employees alike. Soft skills are increasingly important as organizations across all industries look to fill roles, and talent leaders are increasingly investing in internal mobility programs to harness the skills of internal talent. While employers can assess candidates and employees alike for competencies like communication, conflict resolution and problem solving, some internal candidates may need additional training or education when moving into a new role or area of business operations. What’s more, soft skills training can help improve client relationships and foster a stronger team dynamic. In this article, we list the benefits of including soft skills into your employee training and professional development program.
Benefits of Soft Skills Training
Improved Customer Service
When an employer invests in soft skills training for employees, they are preparing their workforce to better engage customers. For example, training employees on active listening means they will more effectively establish customer needs, identify issues and help resolve them. Moreover, empathy can have a positive impact on company culture as a whole in addition to customer service.
Soft Skills Training Can Increase Sales
Improving soft skills can benefit your sales team during the sales negotiation process. Employees can use their competencies to engage with the client on a more personal level, without breaching the all-important professional boundaries, and your customers will appreciate this. When employees take additional time to discuss the pain points that your clients experience and match them with the right solution, the sale will happen by itself.
Better Employee Retention
Investing in the professional growth of your employees will pay off with increased employee retention. You will reduce the need to hire and train replacement staff, thus reducing organizational costs. Additionally, soft skills improve knowledge retention and equip employees to take ownership of their personal development.
Top Soft Skills in the Workplace
Now that we have outlined some of the benefits of soft skills training, here we provide the top soft skill competencies you should concentrate your employee soft skills training on. LinkedIn published a list of the most in-demand soft skills with leadership, communication, collaboration and time management coming out as the soft skills employers were actively seeking. In this section, we take a take closer look at the specific skills you should consider training your employees on and the best ways to train your employees.
There are a number of options for delivering soft skills training to your workforce. You can dedicate entire courses solely to soft skills, or you can add relevant soft skill sections to your existing employee education content. In terms of delivery methods, consider using some of the options outlined below.
Coaching and Mentoring
If you identify an employee who has a development need for a specific soft skill like leadership, you can consider bringing in a mentor or coach and tailor a learning approach that’s specific and targeted. The coaching process in the workplace typically implies collaboration with the employee to identify, target, and plan for better performance.
A coach can help the employee define their goals, existing skill sets, strengths, and, of course, weaknesses. For example: the employee finds out that he/she is not good enough at communicating with the staff supervised, so a coach creates a development strategy and provides him/her with a clear pathway to improve their communication skills. When an employee is on their way to implement this strategy, a trainer supports them and provides them with actionable feedback.
Coaching and mentoring is especially effective in imparting soft skills, such as communication and leadership which are key in improving customer service.
If you want to train an entire group of employees in a specific soft skill, you can organize live workshops to reach as many employees as possible while also helping to foster team building skills. The best workshops have a concrete, action-oriented purpose and aim to find answers to current problems in the field.
Let’s say you want to teach your customer service staff how to resolve conflicts with clients. You can develop role-play scenarios and play them out right in the workshop. Let the supervisor or learning and development representative be a disgruntled customer and your employees will have to try to settle the conflict. Based on their responses, the trainer will be able to bridge skill gaps and point them in the right direction.
Another effective yet simple way of developing soft skills is to learn with other people. Research has shown there is a significant link between having fun in the workplace and informal learning. You can take advantage of this by creating streams of work or small-scale projects that require collaboration between colleagues at work. Or you can undertake social learning online via the use of social apps and other tools.
Try launching a peer forum where employees will discuss soft skills in the workplace and how to achieve their full potential. They will have a place to ask questions and share stories to get peer-based feedback. For instance, an employee encountered a particularly difficult customer who got on his/her nerves. He/she can share his/her experience on the forum, discuss it with colleagues, and get useful advice for the future.
What Is Emotional Intelligence? Is it a Soft Skill That Can Be Learned?
Emotional Intelligence or (EI) is the ability of a person to manage both their own emotions and understand the emotions of people around them. There are five key elements to EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Employees with high EI are better at identifying how they are feeling, what those feelings mean, and how those emotions impact their behavior and in turn, other people such as customers and coworkers.
It can be a little difficult to “manage” the emotions of others as one cannot control how someone else feels or behaves. If employees can identify the emotions behind their behavior, they have a better understanding of where they are coming from and how to best interact with them.
High EI overlaps with strong interpersonal skills, especially in the areas of conflict management and communication—crucial skills in the workplace. Employees who can self-regulate their emotions are often able to avoid making impulsive decisions since they think objectively before they act. Operating with empathy and understanding is a critical part of teamwork; being able to attribute someone’s behavior to an underlying emotion will help you manage relationships and make others feel heard. On an individual level, being aware of your feelings is the first step in not letting those feelings control you. Recognizing how you feel, and why, will help you to sit with those feelings and then move forward in a productive way.
Effective leaders are often very emotionally intelligent. In the workplace, it’s important for leaders to be self-aware and able to view things objectively. This translates into understanding your strengths and weaknesses and acting with humility. This must be balanced with empathy—employees who feel appreciated and valued at work aren’t only happier, but more productive.
Fortunately, you can help employees improve EI skills with some thoughtfulness and practice:
- Ask employees to try to slow down their reactions to emotions. Try phrases like: “Next time you feel angry, try to sit with it before lashing out.” “Did someone upset you?” “What do you think was the emotion underneath their behavior?”
- Ask employees to think about their strengths and weaknesses. No one is good at everything, and that’s okay! Make sure employees understand that it’s okay to ask for—or offer—help.
At the end of the day, putting in the effort to better train and understand your employees’ soft skills can greatly improve communication between customers, employees and coworkers. The modern workplace can sometimes make employees feel confused and overwhelmed which can have and adverse effect on employee mental health. Soft skills training can equip your workforce with great compassion and competencies that will make an impact on a human level.