Soft skills aren't like hard skills. Hard skills are the skills that you need to do your job; they’re learned and often very specific.
Soft skills are much more emotional, they’re personal attributes that reflect an individual’s ability to interact with others.
Another way of defining soft skills is simply as people skills. They work alongside an individual’s hard skillset but they are much more multi-faceted than a simple aptitude for a given job. They are the kind of skills that enhance a person’s employability; they better an individual’s job performance, and in turn their career prospects.
This is because soft skills are the things that make you unique, they’re the things that separate you from your job title, and they’re the things that make you who you are. Soft skills are interpersonal and they are easily transferable to any workplace regardless of its niche. Training doesn't always foster them, but soft skills are inextricably linked to an individual and their personality.
Training for soft skills?
As it’s not easy to develop or train soft skills into your employees, they’re a much more difficult thing to integrate than hard skills. Hard skills are easily measurable, they have specific ways of being tested, and this is something that makes the development of soft skills much more difficult.
Soft skills come in a number of guises from personality traits, to empathy, communication and the individual’s skill at socialising. They are incredibly beneficial and they serve to mark people out as, well, people. They remove any notion of automation and they remind us that we can learn, be taught, but we’ll always retain something of us and something that’s not easily defined.
However there is scope for developing soft skills and providing employees with the potential to learn ones that they haven’t yet. Let’s have a look at potential applications for training practices to foster better people skills within your business.
Traditional learning vs non-traditional learning
In the Western world we like to have answers. We pose questions that have clear solutions and this is something that is reflected in our learning processes. It can also be considered as “if this, then that” as we often work in binary couplets. We like to work with definitive and within logical parameters but this isn’t actually that reflective of the way that we think individually.
Our subjective perceptions of the world are often contextualised but we also usually have a number of different opinions in our heads. We like to act sure about things but really we can’t be sure of anything. It’s this subjectivity that we need to explore when it comes to training your staff in soft skills.
The most important disparity to consider is the fact that soft skills require interactions with people; elearning requires interactions with computers. So the initial set up and arena for training people in soft skills seems inherently problematic.
However that doesn't mean that elearning can’t be used for soft skills training, it’s just that it’s important to understand the medium that you’re working within.
Soft skills and elearning tips
There are plenty of ways to utilise elearning practices and it can be difficult to determine just how to approach this huge industry. When it comes to soft skills training it’s worth considering how to implement it with some sort of human component too.
A business can use multimedia files like video clips or photos to present learners with scenarios. These don’t especially have to be business scenarios but they should provide some sort of challenge that requires good people skills to navigate. This could be as simple as a multiple-choice question relating to a video of customer and staff interactions.
However you do it try to make it so that it reflects your business and its ethos. You want your staff to interact with each other, and customers, in a professional, kind and caring manner. Use some online resources to help foster this perspective.
Develop training that reflects the inherent difficulties
As soft skills are harder to define and measure than hard skills it’s worth developing elearning practices that reflect this. Perhaps provide your staff with written scenarios that aren't easily solved. Leave them to ponder and talk it over with others and foster a collective problem solving and communicative environment.
Another potential approach is to provide your learners with online resources that they can only complete with the help of others. Create scenarios that don’t allow an individual to succeed on his or her own and push your employees to talk, interact, and get to know their colleagues.
This is where soft skills training comes into its own as it allows people to develop general sociable skills that encourage interaction and communication. This in turn will create a much happier work force that’s friendly and better suited to their jobs.
Hard skills are all well and good but it’s people that you work with. Use elearning to develop soft skills in your employees and see marked improvements in employee satisfaction and in the jobs that they’re doing.