Soft skills are sometimes overlooked but critical for business. They affect the atmosphere and commitment in the company, and they can contribute to increasing productivity by 12%1 or even 14.5%2. Fortunately, soft skills can be taught to employees. Therefore, it is worth including this area in the employee development strategy and using an educational platform to constantly improve skills in this field.
This article will explain the following:
- What the definitions of soft skills and hard skills are
- What effects hard skills have on business and what results can be achieved by developing them in the company
- How employees can be assisted in developing these competencies through a Learning Management System (LMS).
Employees who constantly improve their competences provide work of an increasingly higher quality at the same time. This translates into dynamic development of the organization and increased profits.
Achieving such a state is not only up to employees, who obviously should put their efforts into acquiring new skills. The company should also take care of employee development, so that they, and thus the entire organization, are adapted to the dynamically changing reality. This process is influenced by their scope of duties – but most often it is not enough. In order to constantly raise the competence level of the team, companies also need to focus on internal knowledge sharing and appropriate training.
Soft skills vs hard skills
There is a dichotomous perception in the wider opinion:
- Hard skills – measurable skills which can, for example, be tested through an appropriate exam or by obtaining an authentication document. An example may be the level of knowledge of a given language confirmed by a certificate, a driving license indicating the ability to drive a car, or a machine operation course.
- Soft skills – their definition is not obvious, but it can be reduced to a set of psycho-physical features and social skills. What does that actually mean? These are innate or acquired abilities which influence how we perceive and interact with the world. However, unlike hard skills, they are difficult to assess.
This division strongly influenced the requirements for employees. It outlined two areas within which particular expectations were introduced. However, when defining them, it is easy to run into a fairly obvious problem. Identifying specific, measurable aspects that employees must carry out in order to, for example, receive a promotion, does not cause major problems. On the other hand, issues as important as approach to work and or team cooperation are much more difficult to define precisely. Standardization, which is a natural element of assessing hard skills and has clear points of reference, is very difficult to apply to extremely diverse human personalities, not to mention verifying or enforcing requirements in this regard.
These arguments lead to the conclusion that there is no point in introducing requirements for soft skills and that emphasis should be put only on measurable skills. Nothing could be more wrong, as shown by a number of studies.
Soft skills – their importance in business
Each of us is familiar with a situation in which a so-called toxic person joined a team and spoiled the atmosphere of collaboration. Another example is a supervisor who gets satisfaction from performing tasks, which, according to research, is the second most common reason for employees quitting their jobs. The consequences are always the same – a decrease in efficiency and an increased turnover of employees who, if they have an opportunity, prefer to change jobs, especially if attempts to solve the problem are ineffective. However, internal problems in the absence of the right skills in the team are only one side of the coin.
Soft skills have a huge impact on business not only because of the atmosphere in the team (although this in itself is of course important for creating a good work environment). Research shows that training soft skills can increase productivity by 12%4 or by 14.5%5. The first example concerns Indian sewing factories where soft skills’ training was introduced for selected teams. 9 months after the experiment, there was a decrease in turnover, which generated a 256% net return on the investment.6
It is also worth mentioning that in the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey from 20167, over 90% respondents assessed that soft skills are key to retaining the right employees, improving the quality of leadership in the company, and creating an engaging culture.
Despite these obvious advantages, employers are often afraid to focus on soft skills because they are personality dependent and difficult to assess. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten (and should be spoken out loud!) that employees can be taught soft skills and assisted in developing them.
4 ways to improve soft skills using an e-learning platform
Developing soft skills should be an integral part of any organization’s training strategy. This is best implemented taking into account the latest trends in Learning & Development. This means that it is worth choosing the right LMS software and using its capabilities to achieve the goals. A learning platform can support the development of soft skills in four ways.
- Soft-skill courses
Openness, creativity, time management, communication, emotional intelligence – these are the skills considered the most desirable in the workplace. Suitable training content can be prepared for each of these topics so that it is easily accessible. The employees do not have to rely solely on their own efforts. After starting soft-skill training, an e-learning platform based on artificial intelligence can provide them with further valuable courses, based on their results and preferences.
- Courses defined by managers
Superiors play a huge role in the development of employees. They know best what soft-skill training courses their team needs. They can assign courses or course paths to individuals or even entire teams. Afterwards, they can test the training course content together during their daily work.
- Skill development through an e-learning platform
A learning management system (LMS) is not only an e-learning platform. It is also an application which allows employees to share valuable advice or other materials. This in itself requires the development of soft skills such as knowledge sharing, communication, and self-presentation. For many people, recording a Q&A video in the field of their specialization or answering questions publicly is a challenge, which may improve their performance when it is overcome. Of course, in order to maintain the quality of the materials, it is important that the platform administrators verify the official training content of the company.
- Cooperation and feedback
A Learning Management System (LMS) also allows companies to implement innovative L&D projects. Peer-to-peer learning or mentoring in a digitized form are good examples. When focusing on a project such as the development of co-workers, it is essential to be open to honest feedback, but also to learn to give it, as well as consciously and patiently build trust and cooperation. Such solutions also constitute a great form of learning – through practice and learning by teaching others.
Implementing training strategies in the field of soft skills certainly requires sensitivity and support due to the difficult process of assessing them. On the other hand, implementing projects in this field translates into greater employee involvement, better cooperation in teams, and smaller rotation in personnel. This, in turn, leads to visible effects, such as greater productivity, employee engagement, and thus increased revenues.