Article 3 of 5
This article is the 3rd component of the qualitative study produced for CrossKnowledge* among a representative sample of its customers across 4 markets with different cultures and maturity levels in terms of distance training practices.
Study carried out by SpringVoice, a marketing research and strategy consultancy specializing in questions of positioning, understanding customers and purpose.
The modern workplace is always changing, and behavioral changes must keep pace. Effectiveness and performance directly affect the ability to collaborate as a team, practice effective time management, and improve interpersonal skills such as active listening. By helping today’s workers respond and adapt to new challenges, soft skills enhance and complement the technical knowledge gained from hard skills.
Soft skills are often associated with individual personalities and interpersonal skills
When acquired, soft skills help employees to:
- incorporate behavioral changes and reactions, whether individually or collectively, resulting in better human relations, improved conflict management, and enhanced communication
- improve agility and flexibility, allowing employees to adapt to changes and overcome challenges
- increase self awareness and self image by better identifying personal strengths and weaknesses
The benefits of soft skills go beyond the individual
For managers, soft skills are crucial to help keep their teams motivated and achieve their objectives, fueled by more effective leadership and cohesion. The higher they move up the corporate ladder, the more people seem to want to improve their soft skills. They recognize their value as a key to professional achievement and success.
These positive perceptions show an acute awareness of the value of soft skills, and how they can transform an employee’s attitude towards their role at the company and within their team.
Behavioral change is more difficult to learn and takes more time
However, despite an enormous benefit, acquiring or improving soft skills is not necessarily an easy thing to do. The human and subjective element of these skills, based around long-term behavioral change, makes them more complex to learn, and even more difficult to measure.
I think by definition it’s hard to quantify the importance of soft skills. However, I just know that the most successful people are not the most intelligent or even the most hardworking – but the most effective at managing relationshipsM, 30, Manager, UK.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- Lack of self-awareness: People can be reluctant to self-reflect and coming to this realization usually demands more work and practice than having to improve simple technical skills. At their base, soft skills are about the human approach, not just executing rote tasks.
- Action versus reaction: Usually the decision to work on soft skills is not the result of advance planning or personal desire, but often reactionary to a problematic or urgent situation.
- Success is hard to measure: This is because the visible improvements in behavior are rarely seen immediately after training, and are instead learned and reinforced over time via practical, real-world application.
To use a common analogy, learning soft skills is a marathon rather than a sprint. It requires practice, patience and endurance to arrive at a measurable result when acquiring these skills.
The right training methods can make all the difference
Because there are no shortcuts when it comes to soft skills, learners seek specific ways to help them develop and improve.
They need methods that allow them to:
- test, experiment and put new behaviors into practice via role play or other simulation exercises
- discuss, reflect and observe real-life situations, with realistic scenarios and videos
- explore a subject in depth with broader content options and increasing levels of expertise
- repeat, restart, and reinforce with the help of regular reminders, quizzes, and assessments
The development of behavioral skills calls for genuine agility… and diversified formats
Training should encompass various formal and informal channels that are both active and passive. The methods must be interactive, encourage discussion and exchange of ideas, and benefit the entire workforce, while remaining individual and personalized at the learner’s level.
Digital learning, thanks to the flexibility that it can offer, seems to tick all the boxes when it comes to behavioral change through soft skills acquisition. It is the only method that can deliver real learning outcomes over the long term for the organization and the learner.
If you enjoyed this, continue on with the 4th article in our original research series!