Top 3 Soft Skills Every Training Program Should Target

Fundamental Soft Skills Every Training Program Should Target

This article takes the form of a case study of a hypothetical company called “The Amazing Company”, as first seen in the article Conducting A Successful Soft Skills Training Program: 4 Crucial Aspects You Cannot Overlook from BizLibrary’s free eBook 'How To Measure The Impact Of Soft Skills'.

So, let’s keep trying to help our troubled "The Amazing Company." They are having issues with new product releases and enhancements and it’s costing them time, money and new sales. The last two product enhancements took 6 months to launch. In each case, the planned release timeline was 90 days. To overcome their difficulties they have to shift the focus of their soft skills training program to the development of three key soft skills.

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1. Collaboration

The goal was to reduce release cycle of product enhancements to an average of 90-days each. The current level is at 180 days in the last year. Now let’s examine the business impact of that. For every 30 days beyond plan, TAC loses 8 new sales in it’s B2B division at an average value of $50,000 each. That’s $400,000 in lost sales alone. We’ve also learned that we tie up 6 team members for each 30-days on the development team with an average monthly salary of $8,000 each for and additional $48,000 in additional costs for every added 30-days.

Our root cause analysis as seen before in the free eBook How To Measure The Impact Of Soft Skills revealed a sequence of important steps in the new product release process that the responsible teams were taking in isolation from one another. The teams worked alone without much mid or low-level interaction between and among team members. This resulted in a lot of duplicated effort and missteps that could have been avoided had the teams worked in a more collaborative environment and structure. The breakdown in collaboration skills existed at the director, manager and individual contributor level across each of the critical teams involved.

The development and education program targeted improvement in a few critical behaviors such as timely communication, cross-functional team building, teamwork, and problem-solving behaviors. Team members gained an understanding of appropriate uses for different methods of communication, namely email, text and phone to accelerate the speed with which issues could be identified and resolved.

By improving these behaviors through a soft skills training program covering collaboration, we can deliver bottom-line benefits in two ways. First, we can help the organization gain $1,200,000 in annual revenue when we achieve our target of a 90-day release cycle. Second, we cut costs by another $144,000 freeing that payroll investment to be allocated to the NEXT development cycle, which in turn further amplifies the business benefits. The initial net gain from a 90 day reduction is $1,344,000.

The value of collaboration is significant. Can you name a truly successful organization in this age of “big data” where silos of information are the norm? Who is more valuable, the employee who knows a lot but not willing share, or the employee who knows a lot of people and can connect others to people who can quickly help them solve a problem? Collaboration isn’t just a fun idea or a buzzword and it’s more than a competency, it’s an operational model for teams, organizations, and leaders who will need to be collaborators in this world to be successful.

2. Delegation

Delegation is a soft skill that’s crucial for successful managers and supervisors to master. It’s a commonly accepted core competency for managers, but it’s also a competency that makes the measurement of improved performance elusive. At TAC, our newly promoted managers all seem to struggle with this aspect of the transition from individual contributor to manager.

Our root cause analysis revealed that the primary reason for the struggle is that nearly every one of the newly promoted managers continued to hold onto tasks and job roles they performed previously in their roles as individual contributors. Therefore, they simply did not have the time to perform the jobs to which they had been promoted, namely management of their teams. They were routinely bogged down in just too much work, because they either would not or could not effectively delegate work to the members of their teams.

The goal here was to reduce time to full productivity as manager for newly promoted managers to 8 weeks. Their current level was 16 weeks in the last year. The business impact of their current standing is noteworthy. For each week the managers are not fully productive, TAC loses 50% of the average value of the managers’ production. Each newly promoted manager earns an average of $1,500 per week, so the lost value as measured just by payroll is $750 per manager. In the last 12 months, TAC promoted 12 managers. The total lost value of payroll was $72,000.

The new manager training, development and education program targeted improvement in the critical behaviors that supported effective delegation of tasks to direct reports. Examples included goal setting and communicating clear expectations. Managers also learned how to determine which tasks to delegate and how to establish and set priorities for their teams more effectively. By improving these behaviors with a soft skills training program that focuses on delegation, we can deliver bottom line benefits in two ways.

First, a soft skills training program helps the organization gain the full value of $72, 000 in payroll for the expected 12 new managers we plan to promote next year as we cut the time to full productivity in half from 16 to 8 weeks. An additional benefit is the increase per employee productivity on their teams. In the 12 teams where the new managers were slow to get up to speed, we experienced a drop in per employee revenue production of .25%. With each team having 6 members, the total gain in productivity can be measured too. At an average of $100,000 at full production, the .25% drop meant the 6 employees on these teams produced $598,500 each instead of the $600,000 fully performing teams produced. By improving the productivity of 12 teams, we added another $18,000 of revenue to the bottom line for a total benefit from delegation training of $100,000 for 12 managers.

3. Problem Solving

Every employee has to make decisions and solve problems of some type every day. When you get right down to it, solving problems is what we pay most employees to do on some level. At TAC, we are having problems with the problem-solving skills of our help desk employees. Or, more accurately, our help desk employees don’t solve problems very efficiently. This issue hasn’t surfaced as a major cause of poor customer retention, the issue is affecting our sales effort, because prospects use the help desk during trials.

The goal was to improve help desk efficiency solving prospective customer problems and improve satisfaction ratings to 4.5 of 5. Now for our current standing. 3 of 5 last year for trials that we did not win. 4.5 or better for trials we won business from 85% of the time. The business impact is once again worth mentioning. In the last year, when our trial prospects could not get their technical problems solved effectively and rated our help desk service at 3 or lower, we lost every single one of those opportunities. We win contracts when the prospects get help desk support and problems solved that they rate at 4.5 or better 85% of the time. The average sale value equals to $50,000 annually.

Our soft skills training program focused on behaviors to help the help desk teams do four things more effectively, define problems, generate alternatives, evaluate and select alternatives, and implement solutions. What we observed was that after the help desk employees began to master the skills and modify their behaviors, both prospects and customer satisfaction ratings, in the categories of getting their problems solved and issues addressed, improved dramatically.

Current customer satisfaction scores were not bad, but they improved. The biggest impact was on the close rate of sales as more prospects in trials agreed to buy our services. We maintained the 85% success rate for ratings of 4.5 or better. But, we had an additional 24 deals won since completion of the initial training 12 months ago and manager training for ongoing support. The value of these contracts is $1,200,000.

Soft skills form the foundation of nearly all of our interactions with people. The final evaluation of the success of any organization comes down to how employees interact with prospects, customers, the market and each other. Soft skills, therefore, are not extras. These are not skills that should be reserved for training when we have extra time and the hard skills training is finished. The free eBook How To Measure The Impact Of Employee Soft Skills Training provides best practices on how to create and measure the success of a soft skills training program.

Related Articles:

  1. Free eBook: How To Measure The Impact Of Employee Soft Skills Training
  2. Conducting A Successful Soft Skills Training Program: 4 Crucial Aspects You Cannot Overlook
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