Back To Basics: The Development of Employee’s Soft Skills | EAPA-SA

What are soft skills? 1

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients among others that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.  The Collins English Dictionary defines the term “soft skills” as “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.  Hard skills, on the other hand, are the job-specific skills and knowledge one needs to perform a job.

Why do Soft Skills Matter? 2

While technical skills may get one’s foot in the door, work-wise, people skills are what open most of the doors to success after that.  A good work ethic, one’s attitude, communication skills, emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial to forging a successful career. Problem solving, delegating, motivating, and team building are all much easier if you have good soft skills. Knowing how to get along with people – and displaying a positive attitude – are crucial for success. These are the soft skills required of a leader.

Five soft skills that are essential in business 3

Complex problem solving:  Employers want professionals who know how and when to solve issues on their own, and when to ask for help.

Critical thinking:  The skills that one needs in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

Creativity:  This skill helps one to develop innovative solutions to problems. It requires openness to innovation and mental flexibility resulting in fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Resilience:  While resilience is similar to problem solving, resiliency is more focused on one’s ability to recover from setbacks. Instead of crumbling under pressure, resilience helps people to learn from failure and find ways to make the best of a bad situation.

Leadership – or people management skills:  Living in a world of rapid change creates challenges and makes big demands of managers and employees. Leaders require good people management skills and strengths in judgement and decision making to manage and coordinate their team.

Soft skills training: How do you do it? 4

Developing soft skills in the workplace isn’t a simple matter – these skills are inborn in some people and learned through experience by others.  As soft skills are unquantifiable – although their effects are keenly felt – it may be difficult to convince people that they require certain soft skills learning and development.  This is a realisation they may well have to reach their own.  However, there are some methods of soft skills training that have been proven to be effective.  These include:

Training programmes and workshops

Training programmes and workshops are beneficial for employees who need to see for themselves that they should improve their emotional intelligence – especially if they want to get ahead.  Sometimes, all it takes is a wake-up call to get employees to realise that they aren’t being as sociable, communicative, or good-natured as they could be.

Blended learning

There is a wide variety of eLearning tools, soft skills training courses and training modules available to any company that wishes to improve the compatibility and interactivity of its people.  The eLearning component is useful to show what “good” looks like, including running scenarios.

However, the best soft skills training curriculum will most likely take a blended approach – combining eLearning with face to place role playing and one-on-one coaching.

Team building exercises and discussion groups

There are many team building exercises available that promote a variety of soft skills.  Team building getaways are particularly successful as they take people out of their normal routine and break the workplace habit of thinking that colleagues are separate at work from the real version of themselves.

Social events

People need to see their co-workers outside of the office and bond with them as people, not just as team members or associates. Once your team establishes connections with each other outside of their work responsibilities, it will be easier to recognise each other as people and friends.

Leadership as a role model

How can anyone take direction from management if they do not have evidence that their superiors are following their own advice?  Managers must be the person they want everyone on their team to be.  It is very powerful to partake of the same soft skills development training attended by the rest of your team.

Regular guidance and feedback

Once team members are on board in embracing their soft skills development, the best way to continue the good work is for their superior to provide regular feedback on their progress.  Soft skills training is a slow process because it requires a change of habits and character traits rather than a change of knowledge.  It is not a “game of punishment” for falling short but rather one of reward for progress made.

Ultimately with regular corporate soft skills training in the workplace, management can be assured that their team has been given the best chance to work positively and productively together.