We’ve all been there: sat in a meeting with that one colleague (or several) who’s just that little bit harder to work with. Whether it’s Steve from finance who’s a whizz with Excel but very much sees an I in Team, or Sharon in IT whose software skills could rival Bill Gates, but isn’t so great with time management, soft skills are the key to business running smoothly.
Although soft skills have always been needed in the workplace, they’ve been somewhat thrust into the spotlight in recent years. It’s often the way that it takes something big to spur on a much-needed action – like a global pandemic, for instance… With the birth of hybrid working, skills like communication and teamwork have become even more vital to job roles. And with The Great Resignation and so many employees now taking a more critical eye to how much they even enjoy or feel valued in their roles, managers are having to reassess their skills in coaching and leadership, and implement strategies to accommodate this.
In this blog, we’ll explore five reasons why now is the time to invest in soft skills training, and the benefits this could bring to your organisation.
Reason 1. Hard skills need soft skills
Now, we’re not about to start saying hard skills have had their day – a good sense of humour can’t drive a bus the same as excellent listening skills won’t be able to file your tax returns.
However, it’s pretty safe to say that there’s more to any role than simply what you do; it’s also about how you do it and how you engage with and involve others along the way. Having solid interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to adapt your style of communication depending on who you’re talking to (to name a few of said soft skills) are all huge factors in how well someone performs in a role, and none of them relate to any particular hard skill.
In spite of this, soft skills are often still viewed as a nice-to-have and not a need-to-have – a McKinsey study showed hard skills command almost double the salary of their softer equivalent.1 The pandemic has, however, provided pause for thought that has led to a shift in favour towards soft skills across the board. In fact, a recent Fosway Group research report found:
“Soft skills are becoming more important than hard skills. Collaboration, communication, goodwill and indulgence are now the kind of skills that we need to make things work.”2
Reason 2. People need to feel connected
One life goal we’ve taken up recently is to make it at least 24 hours without using the words ‘the new normal.’ Today is not that day.
In fairness, we can’t escape using it here because the rise of remote and hybrid working has brought soft skills development into sharp focus. WFH has been, for many, an isolating experience. Yes, Zoom calls are there to bring coworkers together, but we’d all be lying if we said we came away from most of those meetings feeling connected. Soft skills like empathy and communication can go a long way in helping people feel connected to one another from afar.
But loneliness is only the tip of the iceberg. The need for difficult management conversations and conflict resolution hasn’t magically disappeared since we switched to virtual. These conversations were hard enough before, but physical distance and disparate teams have added whole new layers of complexity.
Investing in training that will empower managers with the soft skills needed to effectively and appropriately give and receive all kinds of feedback from remote locations, and to coach their teams to get the best out of them can help your workforce align seamlessly with this new reality.
Reason 3. Change is constant
If there’s one lesson to learn from the past few years it’s that change is constant. So, if you’re just about ready to crack open the Hobnobs and settle down for a well-earned rest after the chaos of the last few years, you might be in for a nasty surprise…
A lot of energy is dedicated — and with good reason — to enhancing and future-proofing organisations, from software migrations to rethinking entire business structures. However, enabling staff to thrive in changing work environments through personalised development programmes can often fall by the wayside. Managing a hybrid team, for example, is a very different discipline to leading one that’s in the same building every day.
Soft skills training forms part of this development programme and is vital for keeping pace with a dynamic workplace. It’s not just about fostering effective communication and relationship building anymore, it’s also about developing adaptability, resilience, and problem-solving skills. As such, investing in these soft skills so that employees are better equipped to handle change not only benefits business in the long run, but it builds a culture that shows staff they are appreciated and valued – something that has increasingly become a key factor in retaining talent.
Reason 4. Soft skills are always evolving
Soft skills, like hard skills, require maintenance. Hard skills have to move in sync with emerging technology and best practice; for example, GDPR has to be continually reviewed and updated each year to remain compliant. Soft skills, however, must keep pace with progress. For instance, due to the progress we’ve made over the last few years with regards to diversity, equality and inclusion, inclusive language, empathy and cross-cultural communication are more in-demand now than ever before. In fact, empathy is now viewed as the most important skill for leaders, with a recent study reporting that its use promotes an increase in employee engagement, innovation and retention.
It’s probably safe to say that if we went back even a handful of years, empathy wouldn’t be getting nearly as much screen time as it is now. So, there’s a need for L&D leaders to factor in how soft skills evolve – both in their importance and in how they’re demonstrated – into their overall L&D strategy.
Reason 5. Technology is there to help
The last few years may have been a bit heavy on the negatives, but it’s not all doom and gloom! With the growth in digital learning, there’s three notable benefits:
- Learning is more cost-effective: Bringing everyone together for a seminar can be expensive (and stressful.) Providing learners with on-demand access to online courses and resources obliterates those costs.
- Learning has become more flexible: Online learning allows employees to come to the materials in their own time and at the exact moment of need. That’s a win for L&D!
- Learning can be personalised: Everything from the learning pathways to the learning materials can now be customised — and that supercharges any and every learning strategy.
Suggested reading: Need to know more? Check out this article on delivering personalised workplace learning.
The combination of these factors — and the increased demand for soft skills — means there has never been a better time to make soft skills training a priority. Of course, this segues perfectly into what we do…
With a library of over 400 videos to choose from, and collections in everything from management conversations to hybrid working, with Video Arts, you have the prime opportunity to work with learning materials that are not only relevant to the workplace, but are also highly engaging and entertaining!
Using a combination of humour and storytelling that facilitates longer-lasting learning (and featuring a bunch of famous faces along the way), our content can be incorporated any way you like into your learning strategy – be that as support materials to existing learning pathways, or as standalone e-learning courses.
Book a trial today to find out more!