Better Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace: Internal and External Benefits

Better communication, increased empathy and other interpersonal abilities can be taught, and may have a positive impact on the modern workplace. 

Two employees collaborate.

Interpersonal skills improve teamwork and enhance customer service.

Workplace training sometimes focuses exclusively on the “hard” skills required to use essential technology and perform role-specific duties. This view of employee education is unnecessarily narrow, due to the continuing importance of “soft” skills. Employees who are expert communicators and empathetic teammates are well-suited to both cooperating internally and interacting with customers. Some workers emerge from college without fully developed soft skills, further increasing the importance of learning these abilities on the job.

No matter the industry in question, professional roles involve interacting constantly with other people. The more smoothly these interactions go, the more value the employee will generate for the company. This value may mean that meetings reach satisfactory conclusions, customers receive helpful answers to their questions, or partner organizations get great results from their own interactions with the business. Across industries and cases, soft skills can represent increased effectiveness.

Hard Value of Soft Skills

The Corporate Finance Institute recently pointed out one of the essential points to remember about soft skills: While some leaders assume communication and other non-technical traits are innate parts of a person, they are actually abilities individuals can sharpen and learn through training. It’s harder to test for soft skills than hard knowledge, but the former may determine an employee’s success at important workplace tasks.

“Communication and other non-technical traits can be sharpened and learned through training.”

The Corporate Finance institute gave a long list of interpersonal skills that can help a workplace thrive, from conflict resolution to encouragement, listening and networking. These are the building blocks of strong relationships, whether between co-workers, representatives of other companies, or customers. A team of workers who are sensitive to others’ opinions, able to move past difficulties and able to express themselves clearly will be effective at resolving nearly any conceivable workplace challenge.

The Balance rated communication as a top interpersonal skill for today’s employees to learn and master, as it is relevant everywhere, from back offices to the front lines of customer care. Whether giving instructions, making requests or taking suggestions, an employee with great communication abilities is a positive asset to his or her team. It’s up to leaders to encourage good communication through training and development and to reward workers who apply this skill set well.

Empathy is a related ability, and it also earned a spot on The Balance’s list of most helpful interpersonal development areas. Workers who are able to listen to and truly understand the concerns of others will be able to make progress on potentially difficult and intractable issues.

Creating a diverse, welcoming workplace, one where new employees are accepted and ideas thrive, may come down to increasing employee communication and empathy. Rather than assuming these are innate qualities that workers can’t learn, leaders can and should take an active hand in encouraging their teams to display better interpersonal abilities when dealing with everyday situations. There are numerous courses that impart these important lessons and encourage workers to communicate well.

Employees communicating in a meeting.Empathy and communication have real value in the workplace.

Training for Interpersonal Excellence

The following are a few training modules specifically created with interpersonal skills in mind. They demonstrate how these abilities are teachable, and show the practical applications of communication, empathy and more.

  • Emotional Intelligence and Optimal Performance: This training module focuses on relationship building within companies and makes an explicit connection between understanding other people’s perspectives and achieving workplace goals. When co-workers more effectively understand one another, they are less liable to pick up stress or end up in unnecessary disagreements.
  • As Simple as Respect: Since being considerate is such a simple concept, leaders may not think to train their employees in this ability. With that said, it is possible to teach consideration. This course gets to the root of some of the toughest problems effecting interpersonal relationships, including discrimination and judgment of others. When people understand how and why disrespect occurs, they can replace negativity with respect and improve a company’s atmosphere.
  • Understanding Emotional Intelligence: When workers aren’t aware of how their emotional states affect their performance, they may be creating negative situations without intending to. Self-aware employees, ones who actively consider their mental state and work through circumstances logically, are well prepared to deal with any challenges, whether they’re providing customer service or working with teammates.
  • Build Upwards Relationships: This course represents the point where emotional intelligence meets quantifiable performance metrics. Employees learn about “followership,” which is a method of building trust and collaborating well with others. When workers embrace this methodology, they’ll gain abilities that will serve them well as they climb the ladder to leadership.

An employee with well-trained soft skills is an asset to his or her employer. Interpersonal understanding and communication enhances teamwork and customer service alike, and emotional intelligence is valuable in every interaction a person has. Individuals who try to thrive on hard knowledge alone may end up unable to contribute maximum value to their respective teams.

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