For most people, education simply means going to school and scoring a grade that gets them qualified for the job. But in reality, a typical report card only tracks hard skills, which, although critical, are only part of what employers look for today. According to recent studies, recruiters actually value soft skills such as sociability, curiosity, empathy, and interpersonal skills just as much (if not more).
As it stands, the world as a whole is experiencing a huge skill gap crisis. A study by McKinsey & Company, showed that up to 85% of companies are struggling with recruiting and retaining top talent. The issue isn’t just at the entry-level – it’s also impacting senior leaders and decision-makers responsible for human resources and talent management who have been tasked with filling open positions.
For these individuals, finding candidates with both hard skills (technical knowledge) and soft skills (communication, interpersonal, teamwork) can be difficult because they’re competing against other organizations vying for the same limited pool of qualified candidates.
The good thing, however, is that there are a few things that employers can do to foster soft skills at the workplace to help boost their employees’ overall performance and productivity. Some techniques such as leadership coaching have proven especially effective in honing the next generation of leaders.
Ways to build soft skills in the workplace
Here are some of most effective methods that can help in closing the soft skills gap in your workplace.
Be more intentional during the hiring process
Training employees on soft skills can become quite expensive, especially if you have to train the whole office; but there is a simple way to avoid all this. And it all starts with the hiring process. The secret is looking for employees who already possess some of the skills. This way, so you won’t have too much work teaching them. You can do this by asking the proper questions like, how do they respond to problem-solving? Or how do they react under pressure?
There are many soft skills to look out for when hiring a new employee, but these are the top ones you should look for:
Leadership skills are perhaps the most invaluable traits you can find in a potential employee. People with strong leadership skills are able to not only inspire others but they hold the charisma and wit to create a conducive, relaxed environment where employees actually like to work.
An effective leader is also one who can communicate well, delegate responsibilities, motivate their team. They are good at taking feedback and are flexible enough to appropriately solve problems in a dynamic workplace. You should be on the lookout for such cues in the interview process.
Cultural and emotional intelligence is the modern trend in the workplace and it is projected to be a very crucial skill in the future. Currently, workplaces are inter-personalized with employees from different cultures, sexual orientations, and nationalities and you need an employee who can easily adapt to the fast-changing world without rubbing other employees or customers in the wrong way.
Communication skills could either be written or oral and you will be looking for an employee who can facilitate effective expression in the workplace. This will enable effective communication between other employees and customers as well, making it a win-win situation.
Problem-solving involves the ability to blend the use of creative and analytical thinking to find solutions. The employee should demonstrate reactiveness when recognizing and dealing with problems and potential issues that can affect the project.
Teamwork skills are crucial soft skills that allow employees to work well in a group setting. A collaborative employee promotes healthy relationships in the workplace, empowering others to work as a team, and helping you to reach set targets, goals, and KPI’s.
As we mentioned, leadership skills are one of the more profound soft skills. If you think about it, an effective leader will often have all the major soft skills, which they use to maximize their team’s performance.
For this reason, leadership coaching should come at the top of your soft skill development strategy. It is basically a comprehensive coaching program designed to instill emerging leaders within your organization with all the critical skills needed to lead effectively.
If the program is opened up to all employees, you’ll end up with a more all-rounded and versatile staff.
Encourage self-reflection and a learning mind-set
The world is constantly changing, and it is important for your employees to adapt and change along with it. According to Sandra Kelly, an industry-led skills expert, cultural intelligence, resilience, and agility are among soft skills she prefers to call essential. This is because they set employees apart based on how they manage themselves and those around them. With skilled employees becoming rare, consider developing a learning mindset for your current employees.
While doing so encourages your employees to self-reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, it is also critical because it saves on acquiring resources and capital that the employees deem not helpful. Closing the soft skill gap has never been easier. Once you know what type of soft skill training your employees require, you can proceed to development.
Introduce online courses and live interactive workshops
When doing the actual training, a good place to start is through online training courses focused on teaching soft skills such as leadership development or communication through case studies. This will allow the employees to learn the skills in their free time without interrupting their work schedule. Courses focus on individual aspects of a certain skill, allowing the employee to pick courses in areas they need to improve.
Live interactive workshops involve teams of employees who gather around with a concrete, action-oriented purpose and aim to find answers to current problems in the field. It can include role-playing scenarios where you focus on your weakness and a trainer assesses your performance, coming up with specific solutions for each scenario.
Launch a workplace peer forum
Learning from other employees in the workplace is a simple yet effective way for developing soft skills. This can be achieved by creating small-scale projects that require collaboration between employees, which makes the office fun and facilitates informal learning.
Experienced employees could offer insights into how they handle different scenarios which require soft skills, helping junior employees to achieve their full potential.
The forum can also be a platform where employees discuss soft skills or share different media/posts on the same topic. This platform allows employees to ask questions and get peer-based feedback.
How closing the skill gap will benefit the workplace
Closing the skill gap between different employees is critical if your business is to stay afloat. Not only will it survive, your business is guaranteed to increase efficiency and productivity. Soft skills have a direct impact on retaining existing customers and attracting new ones while building a strong work relationship with fellow employees.
There are many ways that your workplace will benefit from developing soft skills for your employees and here are some of our top ones.
By developing small-scale projects for your employees, junior or non-performing employees can learn how to negotiate deals from more seasoned employees. This will boost your overall sales because they can discuss pain points directly with the client and offer solutions to their problems.
Improved customer service
This is among the reasons why developing soft skills is critical for employees. It allows them to actively listen to the customer’s requirements and confidently propose your product as a solution to their problem.
Whether you’re a CEO, COO, Director, or Executive Assistant to the President, we can help. We have experts in leadership skills development and coaching on our team who are ready and waiting to partner with your organization. To learn more about how Sounding Board can close this soft skills gap for your company, feel free to contact us today!