Conducting A Successful Soft Skills Training Program: 4 Crucial Aspects You Cannot Overlook

Conducting A Successful Soft Skills Training Program: 4 Crucial Aspects You Cannot Overlook
Summary: Soft skills are a prerequisite in almost every corporate position. Although we sometimes take soft skills for granted, reality has shown that many employees lack them. Fortunately though, there is a way to help employees develop soft skills, or at least improve them. In this article, I’ll present 4 crucial aspects you cannot overlook if you want to run a successful soft skills training program.

Important Aspects Of A Successful Soft Skills Training Program You Should Know

Hard skills are inarguably valuable and you can’t really be successful in a specific role if you lack them. However, soft skills are equally important. The free eBook How To Measure The Impact Of Soft Skills Training provides all the information you need to create a soft skills training program and measure its efficacy.

A discussion about measuring the impact of a soft skills training program ought to start with an agreed-upon definition of the term “soft skills.” The challenge with this is there are numerous definitions of the term.

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The character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills [1]. Wikipedia defines soft skills as “associated with a person’s Emotional Intelligence Quotient, the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people [2].” MindTools defines soft skills as “your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes [3].”

Now, we’ve got that settled, right? Not really. One thing is certain, nobody can provide a clear, easy to grasp definition of soft skills. Instead, it’s more of a concept that most management and training professionals recognize when they see it, but cannot always articulate succinctly.

1. The Hard And Soft Of It

One useful distinction that helps us begin developing a framework for measuring the impact of a soft skills training program is to think of “hard skills” along the lines suggested by the site BeMyCareerCoach.  “These are trade skills and subject matter expertise like programming, accounting, financial analysis, or chemical engineering that we need to perform our job [4].”

Now it’s easy to see why most traditional training programs are created to improve or develop hard skills. The needed improvements are usually clear. The subject matter expertise is readily accessible. The inputs for this type of training generally yield predictable outcomes we can in some way measure.

Programmers learn a new language and accountants exhibit better and clearly defined accounting skills. Analysts deliver more accurate financial models, engineers deliver better designs, architects design more effective and efficient structures. Processes improve in speed, output and safety. Hard skills training is safe, and we can make our business case in easy-to-understand terms. Hard skills are important, but do they drive career success? To this day, the single skill or competency that drives career success isn’t a hard skill at all. It’s emotional intelligence.

2. Soft Skills And Emotional Intelligence

Author Travis Bradberry reported 90% of top performers across all industries in every job category scored high in emotional intelligence. It is the most important factor in driving success for our highest performing employees at every level. That includes leaders and managers. However, unlike hard skills, emotional intelligence isn’t easy to define clearly as indicated in the free eBook How To Measure The Impact Of Soft Skills Training. Nor do we generally see organizations linking improved performance in this area to improved organizational performance.

Intuitively, we know that improved soft skills improve performance. It simply makes sense and it’s logical. If our employees communicate more effectively, are we more or less likely to see improved sales and customer retention? Will our customers be more satisfied? If our managers learn to listen more effectively and delegate more efficiently, doesn’t it flow logically that their teams will be more engaged and perform at higher levels? So, why do we not connect the dots from improved performance in soft skills areas caused by soft skills training to improved business results?

In order to build a system to measure the impact of your soft skills training, you have to start with a clear understanding of the strategic goals of your organization. The goals of the organization form the strategic shape, mold or foundation for you to build your training efforts. But it’s not just the goals. Once you’ve set the goals, you have to understand the performance gaps between your organization’s current level of performance and the desired level of performance needed to achieve a specific goal.

3. Measure The Impact Of Your Soft Skills Training Program

Here is an example using a hypothetical company, The Amazing Company. TAC sells a great software application to small and mid-sized companies. They also have a retail version they sell to consumers. It’s a cloud-based application, and they need some help. We’ll explore how they can achieve a variety of important strategic goals. We will also see how they can measure the impact of the soft skills training they will need to deliver to help them reach their targets.

To illustrate the methodology you’ll need to use to measure the business impact of a soft skills training program, we will need to start with a specific strategic goal. The goal is to retain 85% of clients measured as a number of clients in a rolling 12-month cycle. The current level is 78% for the last 12 months. The business impact equals to 1% increase in retention and $250,000 in annual revenue retained. The performance gap that is intended to be filled is related to the Client Service team. This is a group that’s primarily responsible for client relationships and appears to lack customer service skills.

On the surface, this looks pretty straightforward. Provide customer service training and problem solved! But let’s assume we do exactly that. We provide six months of intensive customer service training and nothing improves. The customer service reps got the training the performance gap suggested they needed. We, on the other hand, delivered the training the management group asked us to deliver.

4. How To Deal With A Performance Gap

In order to fully understand the true cause of the performance gap, you must perform a root cause analysis. Once we did that we discovered that the cause of the performance gap, and one key cause is a soft skill, building strategic relationships. Our next step is to determine the behaviors that support the effective building of strategic relationships, and train and educate to modify these behaviors. We also have a clear way to measure the impact of this soft skills training program, we go back to the strategic metric the training we're providing is supposed to improve, customer retention.

If every 1% of improved retention is worth an estimated $250,000 annually, and we see a 7% increase, we have seen a business impact of $1.75 million from our soft skills training program. Bottom line is, teach customer service reps how to build and maintain strategic relationships with decision makers to our client companies. More on that in BizLibrary's free eBook How To Measure The Impact Of Soft Skills Training.

There are two root causes to this problem. There are too many clients for every customer service rep. There is also a performance gap in building and maintaining strategic partnerships with clients. The first cause of lower than desired performance in this area is not a training problem. It is being addressed with a staff addition and work load management. But, the second root cause is a performance challenge that we can address with employee development by teaching these employees how to build and maintain lasting, strategic relationships with clients.

A soft skills training program is a surefire way to develop or improve all the desired soft skills that will ensure effective company operations. 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.

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  1. Soft Skills - Investopedia
  2. Soft Skills - Wikipedia
  3. Soft Skills - Mindtools
  4. Hard Skills – BeMyCareerCoach