What are soft skills?
Soft skills, also called “people skills,” are the skills and competencies that allow people to interact effectively and productively, both within the workplace and outside of it. Things like collaboration, work ethic, attitude, communication skills, emotional intelligence, time management and goal setting are all soft skills.
75% of long term job success depends upon soft skills mastery and only 25% on technical skills.
– Standford Research Institute International
Soft skills aren’t optional. In fact, they are essential for employees, managers, supervisors, and leaders looking to improve performance and get to the next level in their careers.
Soft skills are what separate average performers from high performers. Similarly, the organizational ability to perform in these areas is what separates average organizations from excellent organizations.
How people learn social interactions
Albert Bandura’s social learning theory explains that humans learn primarily through the observable behaviors of others. “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action,” he says.
But this theory goes beyond simple social interactions. In fact, humans learn complex social interactions by observing the behaviors of others and the consequences of these behaviors. These observations then model our own behaviors in similar situations.
Further research conducted by LinkedIn showed that some of the most in-demand skills today are soft skills. Here are the top 10 soft skills organizations are looking for:
- Critical Thinking
- Social Skills
- Interpersonal Communication
As a result, soft skills development is finally gaining traction as a priority for most organizations, beyond just executive and leadership development programs.
Soft skills are becoming the new hard skills. It is not enough to be highly trained in technical skills, without having the interpersonal and relationship-building skills that help employees collaborate effectively.
How to get started
The key to effectively developing employee soft skills is to focus on the specific behaviors or competencies that your organization needs to change or influence to reach its goals and objectives.
For example, a sales team looking to improve customer service might need to focus on developing communication skills, listening skills, assertiveness, and problem solving skills. All of these have a direct influence on the targeted behavior.
Here’s how to do it:
First, you’ll need to set a goal that is specific enough and measurable. For example, “increase employee engagement from 55% to 80%.” Then, identify a key indicator that you can use to measure progress towards that goal. For example, “98% of engaged employees say they have good communication with their manager.”
Now you can focus on developing the targeted behaviors: Building great relationships with employees. And what skills directly influence the desired behavior? You guessed it! Active listening, communication skills, emotional intelligence, empathy, and so forth.
The next step is to put together a learning strategy for developing these skills.
The best method for developing soft skills
Now that we know that humans learn by observation, we know that humans are visual beings. We are hard-wired to receive and process visual data. This is why the best method to develop soft skills in the workplace is through the use of short-form, or microlearning videos.
The use of bite-sized videos that provide real-life situations can be extremely helpful in developing employee soft skills because they can effectively model employee behavior by giving examples of what to do and what not to do. Make sure your learning plans include time to think, and opportunities for employees to try what they’ve learned.
But mixing online training with face-to-face interactions can yield even better results for soft skill training programs.
Harrell’s, a leading producer of agronomic solutions, used a blended learning approach for developing a manager training program. They combined online video training focused on managerial and supervisory skills with engaging group sessions to share the experiences and lessons learned from the courses.
The soft skills that our managers are learning are difficult to quantify, but they have positively impacted relationships with employees.
– Ella Kimbrel, Vice President of Human Resources
Learn more about how to get started with your soft skills training program by downloading our free eBook, Developing Employee Soft Skills.