Years ago when I worked in corporate, you felt like you won the lottery if you were approved for ANY kind of training. I remember writing up Advanced Psychology level documents with rationale and business case arguments to support being approved for technical training.

It never occurred to me to request “soft skills” training. That was unheard of. Thankfully organizations have come to appreciate these sitter skills and are starting to consider them–and investing in them essential.

So What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are those interpersonal skills that makes it easier for us to work and collaborate with each other. Soft skills include a variety of things from effective communication, delegation, time management, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and leadership skills.

Why You Should Care About Soft Skills

One of my mentors and strategic partners, Kathy Wentworth-Drahosz teaches about the Success Triangle. Each side of the triangle represents a key area where successful employees and leaders need to develop skills: Expertise, Building Relationships and Navigating the Organization. It’s natural when starting your career, to focus on building the technical skills that will help you grow into being a Subject Matter Expert. Unfortunately it’s not enough to just focus on your technical skills.

While developing technical skills can help you progress in your career, it’s not enough to really move you forward. Once you have leadership responsibilities, you’ll need to develop the “softer skills” to build healthy relationships with peers, leadership, team members and customers. Understanding the organization’s culture and what it takes to be successful at different levels of success.

There’s that saying “what got you here, won’t keep you here.” You might get promoted because you have exceptional skills in your technical area, but once you move up, you need to develop other skills. You may need to learn to delegate to others so you can focus on acquiring new skills. You may need to learn how to adapt to different communication or behavioral styles, or develop your strategic thinking and leadership skills.

Lack of Soft Skills Can Lead to a Toxic Environment

For some time, organizations generally over-looked soft skills training, focusing on technical skills because it was difficult to track ROI on soft skills training. One way to quantify why soft skills are so important is to consider the negative impact to a team and organization when someone with poor or no soft skills drives others away. While a certain level of turnover is normal, a high level of turnover rate in a department may be indicative of a toxic environment.

A recent CareerBuilder study showed that 77% of employers believe that developing soft skills is just as important as the more technical skills—so much so that they are considered “essential skills.”

The cost to the organization can be calculated by the cost to hire and train replacements, the amount of overtime that may be paid to other employees who pick up the slack, the lack of productivity for the team due to the loss of another team member or the impact of apathy if others are suffering from low morale.

Many employees will tell you that “soft skills” are actually hard to acquire. It takes time for someone to change habits. It takes time  for others to recognize the difference. It’s not a straight or even a dotted line to see how the improvement in soft skills positively impacts the organization. Yet, they shouldn’t be overlooked.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Develop?

Both organizations and individuals are embracing the need for soft skills training. Investing in soft skills helps to reduce turnover rates and can be leveraged as a retention tool.

As a facilitator, I have seen an increase in requests for time management and productivity, communicating with different behavioral styles, and coaching for emerging leaders.

Improving these skills across the organization help to foster a more positive environment, supports leadership development and increasing productivity.

While soft skills take time to build, making them a priority will serve a long term benefit for the organization.

Looking to develop soft skills in your organization? Request your complimentary learning and development consultation with Nicole.

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