More and more, soft skills training has become an integral part of team development as organizations recognize the value it can bring to team performance. In fact, in a study by Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Michigan, soft skills training was shown to deliver a 250 percent return on the initial investment—a huge margin that shows the impact that this underutilized skillset can bring to the table.
From the sales team to the customer response department, there is no doubt that training all employees in soft skills can have a big impact on the bottom line—not only by helping teams work together more effectively, but by allowing them to achieve better business outcomes.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are important personal attributes that are related to how a person interacts with others and performs in the workplace. They include traits such as communication, critical thinking, empathy, and teamwork. Also known as “human skills” or “people skills” because of their relation to how a person interacts with other people, they are a huge indicator of personal success at work—with another study showing that 85% of a person’s workplace success is reliant on having well-developed soft skills.
Fortunately, when it comes to developing these human skills among your own team members, it’s not all that complex. There are five main competencies—curiosity, listening, persuasion, empathy and resilience—that, if developed, can have some significant returns in your company’s outcomes.
Curiosity is the desire to seek out knowledge and understand things better. It is associated with having an inquisitive mindset and a willingness to explore new ideas and concepts. Training in curiosity can help individuals think outside the box, ask meaningful questions, and come up with creative solutions to problems.
Listening is the act of paying close attention to what another person is saying. It involves understanding and interpreting the speaker’s words, tone, and body language. Training in listening—and especially active listening—can help employees become better communicators by improving their ability to understand and respond to their colleagues.
Persuasion is the ability to influence or convince someone to adopt a certain point of view. It involves using logic and evidence to make a case for a particular idea or opinion. Training in persuasion can help individuals become better communicators by developing their persuasive skills.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves being able to recognize and appreciate different perspectives and points of view. Training in empathy can help employees build stronger relationships with their colleagues by helping them understand each other’s feelings.
Resilience is the ability to stay focused and productive in the face of adversity. It involves learning from difficult experiences, managing stress, and bouncing back from setbacks. Training in resilience can help employees become more flexible and better able to handle challenging situations.
How Do Soft Skills Impact Business Outcomes?
The importance of training in soft skills cannot be overstated; it is essential for employee success in the workplace. For that reason, training should include both formal and informal approaches, such as workshops, team-building activities, and regular assessments of soft skills competency. With a focus on developing these essential skills, organizations can create a culture of collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
For example, strong communication skills allow team members to collaborate more effectively, helping to increase efficiency and subsequently reduce the amount of time that is wasted. Training in listening skills can also foster a more trusting relationship between co-workers and help build empathy, as employees are more likely to develop innovative solutions to problems when they understand each other’s motivations and challenges.
Let’s look at two different examples of how these soft skills can affect the outcomes of different departments.
In a sales team, having curiosity about the customer’s challenges and listening to the effect those challenges have on their team is critical to understanding and building empathy for their situation, but also for being able to persuade them that they can help solve that problem with their product or solution. In the end, having the resilience to deal with the “no” or “not now” can help build up a stronger team that isn’t disillusioned or beaten down by the job itself.
Similarly, an HR team could also use these same human skills, although they may look a bit different. A solid HR team should be able to listen intently to the issues brought before them by prospective employees and current team members alike, and should share a curiosity for how the organization is perceived and actually operates in real life. Having empathy for those people they work with, and being able to teach or persuade them to take a certain path over another may be helpful in dealing with issues of conflict resolution or even disengagement, and building resilience can help an HR team member push through new hires, onboarding, and daily obstacles while maintaining an approachable demeanor.
As you can see, soft skills are highly flexible and can be used across the company for positive effects throughout.
How Can Organizations Train Their Employees in Soft Skills?
One approach to soft skills training is to incorporate the training into existing onboarding and professional development processes that already exist. This can include facilitating workshops, role-playing exercises, team-building activities, and even incorporating assessments that measure an individual’s soft skills.
Regardless of how or when the training is conducted, it should focus on the specific skills that are most important to the organization. Empathy training might include activities such as “walk a mile in my shoes” and “understand the customer” exercises. Active listening training could include communication strategies, active questioning techniques, and learning to interpret body language. Persuasive speaking courses could cover topics such as public speaking, writing for influence, and storytelling, and resilience-building sessions might involve working with a professional coach or counselor to develop personal coping strategies.
As part of the training, organizations should also have a robust assessment process to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. For example, employers can use personality tests to assess an employee’s natural strengths and weaknesses when it comes to soft skills. This can help organizations identify areas of improvement and tailor their training programs accordingly. As an example, with Bongo’s video-based assessment and training tool, trainers and managers alike can develop assignments in a variety of presentation methods that illustrate the skill best in either synchronous or asynchronous lessons, and can additionally help trainers assess at scale with automated feedback.
In any case, regular assessment of soft skills can help organizations identify areas where additional training is needed, ensuring employees have the tools they need to meet the company’s goals.
The bottom line is this: training and assessing employees in soft skills is a powerful way for organizations to improve their team performance, and with comprehensive training and assessment processes in place, team members can increase their performance and ultimately contribute to improved business outcomes.
Want to learn more about how Bongo’s training and assessment tool can help you build a soft-skills program that provides you with great outcomes? If you’d like to know more, visit bongolearn.com or schedule a demo to see how we can help you reach your corporate goals.