As the workplace moves toward greater automation, soft skills training will become a necessity. In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute reported that up to 44% of current work activity hours will be automated by 2030, and 33% of the 2030 workforce’s occupations will change.
Where jobs become automated, employees will need to adapt to the changing workforce by advancing their social skills, emotional intelligence and cognitive capabilities. Demands for soft skills like communication, collaboration, problem-solving and team-building also will change how companies educate, train and assess their workforce.
Employers who currently provide soft skills training have seen a positive impact on their employees, productivity and bottom line. Leaders who have accessed my company’s trainings have indicated that their investments in soft skills training has created a workforce that is better at managing time, communicating, working in teams and other essential tasks, and I know that soft skills training can transform any organization. The following strategies will help you implement these learning initiatives and measure their value.
Align Your Training With The Organization’s Needs
Introducing a soft skills training program will prepare your employees for a more introspective work environment, but as with anything, knowing where to start can be a challenge. Follow these initial steps for implementation:
- Start with a needs assessment: First, determine any problems that your company may be facing, and try to find the underlying reasons for them. Are your leaders lacking communication skills? Are your teams having a tough time collaborating? Until your organization clearly defines what skills are needed, implementing your learning initiatives will be difficult.
- Use gap analysis to assess skills: Some of your workforce may have strong communication, emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills, but there are others who will need training. Keep in mind that critical skills today may become obsolete due to new technology, and marginally important skills now may be indispensable in the future. Gaps can be determined through HR records, focus groups, individual employee interviews, observations and surveys.
- Identify the goals of the company: What would you like to achieve, and what will you gain from training? Think about how many employees will participate. Are these new employees, workers with similar job titles in different departments or employees in the same department at all levels in their careers?
- Make training accessible: Consider how training will be offered. Will it be outsourced or conducted by an internal trainer? Will training be on- or off-site? What modality will training be offered, such as in a classroom with a live instructor, online through e-learning or a blended format that incorporates both?
- Assess the rest: Other considerations are the cost of the training; the value that soft skills training will provide the company, including return on investment and added competitiveness; and the time needed to build up competencies, as well as time employees will spend away from their jobs to participate.
Once employee skills and business goals are assessed, companies can better align their training to meet these needs.
Expectations Of Soft Skills Training
Organizations offering soft skills training often find these skills cannot be studied in a book or learned in a lecture. Rather, soft skills are acquired by changing processes and habits. They are easier to see in action than to analyze through a test or post-course assessment.
Skills to develop can be determined by learning your employees’ strengths through self-assessments, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC Profile or multisource feedback assessments like a 360-degree platform.
Once training has been implemented, employees will learn more about themselves and reflect on their development. Soft skills also need to be practiced, and these life skills can be practiced on the job or at home. Over time, employees developing their soft skills will want to further assess their progress by setting goals and asking others to keep them accountable for their actions.
Measurement Comes From A Variety Of Sources
Many leaders like to understand the value soft skills training brings to the organization. It can be difficult to measure soft skills objectively, and it is unlikely that a single measurement will provide all the data needed to showcase the success of your training.
For example, leadership development programs are designed to improve the capabilities of managers and develop new leaders. When they are effective, competent leaders will have a larger impact on the business. Companies will see improvements in areas like job satisfaction, innovation and productivity.
For leaders interested in measuring soft skills, consider reviewing several areas to analyze the effectiveness of your training. The New World Kirkpatrick Model is one resource for evaluating training. The model looks at:
Reaction: Did participants find the training to be favorable, engaging and relevant?
Learning: Did participants acquire the knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment they expected from the training?
Behavior: Did participants apply what they learned at the training when they were back on the job?
Results: Were there targeted outcomes that occurred as a result of the training and/or support/accountability package?
Your company may look at more specific examples. Take a look at Fujitsu SSL’s peer-coaching program. Company executives wanted to determine if the program was working and assessed it by reviewing:
- Performance of business units that employed peer coaching, compared to others.
- Ratings from managers involved in peer-coaching sessions.
- Individual performance.
- The learning intervention’s effect on employee satisfaction.
Although individual answers did not provide all the details, piecing several together gave the executive team a broad picture about the program. They were able to combine finance data on unit performance with data on the peer-coaching program, as well as gather and assess survey data from participants. They also reviewed individual performance ratings among employees who participated in the program and those who did not to look at the effects of employee satisfaction.
Value for many organizations comes from a variety of sources. When you can trace soft skills training to performance results, you will be more likely to prove that the investment was beneficial.