Cultivating soft skills can help FS firms overcome internal and external challenges to win in today’s changing market.
Soft skills are becoming increasingly critical for employees in any profession and industry, but they are becoming particularly important in the fast-changing financial services (FS) sector.
Financial services firms are experiencing a whirlwind of rapidly changing market forces. Firms are being bombarded by new technologies like blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence. They’re also having to contend with disruptive new business models from non-traditional competitors including Google, Amazon and even Apple, as well as a number of innovative self-serve fintech startups that are flooding the market (think companies like Wealthsimple). On top of traditional FS firms having to develop new hybridized skill sets to accommodate all the technologically-driven change and unconventional competitors, superior customer service is quickly becoming an increasingly important competitive differentiator in the financial services field.
Internally, financial services organizations are also dealing with generational turnover and new employee mindsets when it comes to workplace learning and development. There are widening knowledge and leadership gaps being left behind by retiring boomers, and FS firms are increasingly having to find more effective ways of developing their leadership pipelines so they can train the leaders of tomorrow today and navigate unprecedented market upheaval while continuing to deliver desirable business outcomes. These future leaders have different learning expectations compared to their predecessors, exhibiting a desire for more modern learning experiences and next-generation learning tools.
In the face of this unprecedented change in the FS marketplace, using modern workplace learning experiences to effectively cultivate key employee soft skills can help traditional FS organizations better overcome these internal barriers and external forces to fuel growth and innovation, and win in today’s consumer market.
What exactly are these so-called “soft skills?”
Soft skills are essentially personal characteristics and interpersonal or people skills. They comprise desirable personality traits and individual qualities that help people interact and relate to others in the workplace. These soft skills can include:
- the ability to communicate effectively
- relationship development and management
- emotional intelligence
- creative thinking and problem solving
- decision making
- critical thinking
- time management
- and motivation.
Soft skills help leaders motivate, engage and inspire teams
Cultivating soft skills is especially key when it comes to leadership development. Financial services organizations can overcome many of the barriers and obstacles limiting their growth and innovation by cultivating leaders with a strong aptitude for key soft skills that can help them mobilize and engage workers in digital transformation initiatives and rapid innovation. These are necessary “big shifts” financial services need to navigate if they expect to compete and win in the consumer market of today AND tomorrow, and stable leadership is needed to provide a steady hand on the steering wheel as they do.
Leaders who can inspire, listen and engage in compelling storytelling also have the ability to transform culture. They can play a role in building an organization for the future that is more relaxed and flexible (a must-have for millennials), receptive to change, and open to continuous learning.
Soft skills can improve customer interactions
Leaders with exceptional soft skills can motivate and inspire their employees. This can directly translate to improved customer service and securing customer loyalty in an age of multiplying financial services options—a happy employee is an engaged employee and an engaged employee will typically offer better customer service than one who’s not.
Not only that, but soft skills development is key for those frontline employees who deal with customer interactions on a daily basis. They are an organization’s primary brand ambassadors and are largely responsible for managing and setting customers’ expectations around service and support. The development of soft skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, motivation and effective communication can help employees elevate customer interactions and the customer experience overall. Check out this video on four key skills new managers need to succeed.
How can a modern learning strategy help?
The key is to build a modern learning ecosystem that goes beyond training around hard skills (i.e. technical prowess and core business knowledge) to incorporate soft skills, and that delivers training in a way that’s engaging and “just in time.” Modern workplace learning methods like video-based learning, social assessment, and brain science strategies like situational learning, can effectively encourage the development and practice of soft skills. This approach creates a more balanced and holistic learning model, that also prepares the organization to dynamically adapt to new learning demands and changing market conditions.