The Importance of Soft Skills Training
I accept that leveraging technology is a high priority for organizations today, with many organizations heavily emphasizing the development of “hard” or technical skills among their employees. And yes, hard skills are vital and necessary to maintain a competitive advantage, but in our social media obsessed world, it is becoming ever more apparent that no organization can afford to take their eye off the “soft skills ball.”
If you have any doubt about why soft skills are more critical now than ever, here’s a hint: social media.
Social media makes everyone’s behavior more public than it has ever been, resulting in employees’ behavior towards customers and suppliers surfacing as a new barometer for brand equity and brand perception. From the CEO to the entry-level employee, an incident that in the past might have gone unnoticed is now just a few clicks away from a full-blown PR crisis that can negatively affect brand equity – and negatively impact a company’s bottom line. All it takes is one video posted on Facebook, one snap, one tweet to turn this narrative on its head.
And yet despite the evidence and recent debacles demonstrating the value of soft skills, companies still regard soft skills as the fluff of work life and just expect employees to know how to behave at work, that they will innately know how to control their emotions and handle customers with tact and diplomacy even when under stress.
But it’s not just the recent PR nightmares that are shining a spotlight on the importance of soft skills training. The shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, the increased pace of innovation and digital transformation, the emerging gig economy and globalization itself are all placing an increased pressure on soft skills and drawing attention to that fact that organizations need to tackle head-on how to best develop both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills of their leaders, managers, and employees.
A word of advice though before you rush out and sign up for just any soft skills course. Not all soft skills training was created equally. Good training needs to be relevant, relatable, and engaging so that what is learned sticks and results in real behavioral change, thereby, hopefully, ensuring that employees will know exactly how to react even in the most unpredictable and stressful of circumstances.
Additionally, even if you believe your industry is immune or not affected by PR disasters, it is worth noting that employees with strong soft skills are better at attracting and retaining other talent and holding onto their customers, and maximizing the bottom line.
If soft skills training and development is not a priority, an organization may find its brand, reputation and financials taking a significant hit.