Workplace culture amounts to more than a mission statement and values. It encompasses the ways your employees interact with vendors, suppliers, customers and one another. The foundations for these interactions are the soft skills your employees bring to the workplace.
Soft skills (also known as people or durable skills) are the attributes that allow each of us to interact effectively with other people in everyday situations. From managing their time to understanding how to handle challenging interactions, your employees’ soft skills are as crucial as their job-specific hard skills.
What Is Soft Skills Training?
Think of it this way, training an employee to manage inventory in a store is a hard skill. The soft skill is how they handle a customer searching for a difficult-to-find product. The combination of the two is what makes an outstanding customer experience.
Like their hard skill cousins, soft skills can also be improved with training. Improving your employees’ soft skills can be an effective way for your company to improve overall workplace culture and customer experience and create opportunities for employee advancement.
In this post, we’ll take a look at six core soft skills you should focus on and give you some tips for making your soft skills training work for your employees, whether they’re working remotely or in the office.
What Soft Skills Should You Focus On?
There are a variety of soft skills that employees bring to workplaces, and those skills vary by the type of role each employee has.
Employees in customer service roles might develop their communication and emotional intelligence soft skills to help quickly and emphatically address customer issues.
Managers, especially those new to leadership roles, might instead focus on improving their problem-solving and leadership soft skills to help them make more effective on-the-spot decisions in fast-paced work environments.
Every employee’s need for soft skills training will vary, but there are six core soft skills you should consider making part of your training program.
1. Time Management
From school to the workplace, whether using a new calendaring method, trying out bullet journaling or simply using sticky notes to remind you of what you need to get done, time management is one soft skill that we should all try to improve. Effectively managing time can help employees be more than productive. It can also reduce stress and improve morale in the workplace.
2. Communication Skills
Being able to communicate might seem like a core skill in which everyone should already be an expert, but like all soft skills, each employee will have a different level of proficiency in how they communicate. In today’s age of remote work, communicating by email, video calls, chat platforms and even phone calls takes a great deal of mental effort. Not understanding how to read body language over video—or not having the ability to detect body language at all while using chat and email—can sometimes lead to unintended misunderstandings. Developing employees’ communication skills to manage these multiple channels can help ensure the right work is getting done when needed.
3. Interpersonal and Emotional Intelligence
Getting along in the workplace results from strong interpersonal skills like emotional intelligence and empathy. Understanding personal emotions and having empathy for the emotions of colleagues and customers are critical soft skills for the workplace, from offices to factories and everywhere in between. When employees develop their empathy, they can be better colleagues and provide better service for your customers.
4. Critical Thinking
Whether you call it critical thinking or problem solving, looking at a problem from multiple angles is a core soft skill for employees. Hard skill training provides employees with the “how-to” for their tasks, but critical thinking turns that information into actionable knowledge in the workplace. Strong critical thinking soft skills are also essential to helping employees work independently with the needed confidence to figure out solutions on their own—and then share those with their teams.
5. Adaptability Skills
In addition to critical thinking, developing strong adaptability skills can also help employees be more independent and confident in their roles. We saw these adaptability soft skills put to the test when workplaces moved to work-from-home protocols at the start of the pandemic. Moving meetings, processes and other workplace functions from in person to online over a weekend worked best for teams with strong adaptability skills.
As employees become more confident in their roles, developing strong leadership soft skills can introduce opportunities for internal advancement. Leadership soft skills can help employees effectively take charge, whether rallying a team for a project or finding a solution for a customer problem.
3 Tips for Effective Soft Skills Training in the Workplace
Here are three tips to help you start your soft skills training program for employees in the office and those working remotely.
1. Give Recognition
Knowing their work is valued is essential to retaining great employees. One way to do that is by showing recognition in the workplace. Recognize employee soft skills in the workplace by celebrating great work and applauding excellent customer interactions and those moments when employees have supported their colleagues.
2. Offer Online Training and Workshops
In-person training for soft skills can be great, especially for interpersonal and communication skills. For companies with remote employees, online training and interactive workshops can provide the same experience—and value—to help your employees develop their soft skills.
3. Use Social Learning
We learn many of our core soft skills from experiences with families and school. Providing social learning tools like community forums and “ask the experts” sessions can empower employees to share knowledge to help their colleagues improve their own soft skills.
Take the Next Step in Creating a High-Performing Hybrid Work Model
Our workplaces continue to experience rapid changes in how and where we work. The key to successfully navigating these changes is providing your employees with the right skills to adapt and thrive.
How, where and when people work is changing. After a year dominated by remote work, what we’re seeing today is a shift toward a hybrid model—one in which employees work part time in an office and part time in a remote setting. In a survey of more than 1,000 workers across the U.S., 47% said they would look for another job if their employer didn’t support hybrid work.
Yet adopting a hybrid work model can require organizations to transform how they provide professional development opportunities to meet evolving employee, business and industry needs. Asynchronous training can be one of the tools in your toolkit.
Haley Wilson is a Content Marketing Manager at D2L, specializing in the corporate learning space. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph as well as a Master of Arts focused in history from Wilfrid Laurier University.
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