Training your employees is the clearest and most direct way to impart new skills and help them master important competencies. Even with workforces more heavily remote than ever before, employee education programs are a compelling way to build your team’s abilities and keep job satisfaction and engagement high. The question then becomes which skills you should focus on.
While your first instinct may be to train your team members in the technical knowledge they need to perform their roles, there is another category of educational content to consider: courses focused on so-called soft skills, such as communication and empathy. These abilities may determine how effectively your employees handle everything from customer service to collaboration on projects, and they are worth focusing on.
Why Do Some Companies Overlook Soft Skills?
There is a temptation to take soft skills less seriously than technical skills for a few reasons. For example, The Muse explained that interpersonal skills and communication aptitude are not the kinds of things that make for flashy bullet points on resumes, and individual employees may not realize how important these competencies are to the way they get their everyday work done.
Training Industry added that it can be difficult to measure whether a person has aptitude in soft skills, at least when compared to hard abilities such as technology use. In the latter case, either a person can use a piece of software well, or they cannot. Testing that ability is as easy as assigning the employee to work with the technology and seeing the outcome. Communication, teamwork and empathy are concepts that affect every interaction and are thus less cut and dried.
Another possible roadblock is the perception that communication and collaboration skills are intrinsic to people, that someone is either a good team player or not. Taking this view then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as companies decide not to invest in training to help their employees interact well with customers or each other. This is a mistake, however, as soft skills are both useful to have and relevant to nearly every type of role.
What Can Soft Skills Training for Employees Accomplish?
Soft skills span a range of personal and interpersonal abilities. The Muse broke them down into two general categories: Internal competencies include emotion management and self-awareness, while external competencies comprise talents such as collaboration and conflict resolution. Both types help people tackle their work with confidence and assurance, delivering better results than employees who are less emotionally intelligent.
Completing any kind of project will likely come down to a matter of soft skills at some point in the process. This may be overcoming an early hurdle in group work when members of the team need to become aligned in their objectives, or it might involve diplomatically incorporating or rejecting feedback from a client or another department. An employee working alone may need self-knowledge and confidence to ask for help when needed or commit to a new direction on a project.
A lack of soft skills may be more noticeable than the presence of these abilities. If employees proceed without emotional intelligence, projects may become bogged down due to misalignment or unclear information. Even subject matter experts with exceptional hard skills cannot maximize their contributions to teams if they don’t have the ability to express themselves clearly and become a productive member of a team.
It goes without saying that soft skills are essential in customer service. Employees tasked with resolving clients’ problems and encouraging their continued loyalty should be expert communicators, with the empathy to understand their audience’s point of view and provide useful solutions.
Also worth remembering is the fact that people are interacting with more parts of your organization than ever before. Employees of all levels and departments make up the public face of their companies, through the services they provide, their posts on social media or their efforts to guide customers through problems or queries. These workers should be empathetic, communicative and ready to act as part of a team.
Can Employees Learn Soft Skills Remotely?
Work environments were becoming more heavily remote and global even before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the traditional office model. This raises questions about soft skills training for employees: Can people learn these abilities effectively when they can’t gather in one place? Fortunately, the answer is yes. There are numerous online training options focusing on soft skills, using video content to get messages across and interactive quizzes to test whether learners are retaining information.
These courses may focus on concepts such as sharpening listening ability, becoming assertive in a productive way, bouncing back after setbacks and effectively mentoring others. There are also more general classes starting at the beginning with emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication and maintaining a positive attitude.
Since today’s workers have to apply their teamwork and customer service abilities through remote communication methods, it is only appropriate they also consume educational content digitally. Since video is a multisensory format, learners may take away more information than if they only read the content or listened to it. The lessons can then serve them well in all aspects of their duties, internal and external.
If your team is lacking in soft skills employee training, it is a great time to bolster your programs. Boosting emotional intelligence and effective communication is a way to create versatile employees who can excel at facing whatever may come next for your organization.