It goes without saying that you want your employees to have the skills needed for the job. But what about the "soft skills" that make them more valuable to the company as a whole?
Our guide to soft skills in the workplace will help you create an establishment filled with well-rounded individuals who can contribute to more than just the bottom line.
What Are Soft Skills in the Workplace?
Whereas hard skills focus on specifics such as data analytics and programming, soft skills can be applied across a multitude of different disciplines. These are the skills that allow employees to contribute to the team in subtle yet meaningful ways.
Some examples of soft skills include the following:
- Time management
- Conversational and other interpersonal skills
- Organizational skills
- Critical thinking
- Conflict resolution and problem-solving
- Ability to accept criticism and feedback
These skills are important because workers who possess them are able to foster a comfortable and dynamic work environment. Without these basic people skills, it will be harder for your team to work together in a way that's both meaningful and productive.
How Soft Skills Can Improve Your Business
With artificial intelligence sharply on the rise, you may find yourself wondering why soft skills are so important. After all, aren't computers taking over a lot of the positions that used to be occupied by humans?
Ironically, this increasing shift to artificial intelligence is exactly why you should focus on soft skills. While computers may be able to replace humans when it comes to computing data, there's no substitute for creativity and authentic leadership.
For example, did you know that when employees turn out to be a poor fit for a position, it's often because they're lacking in soft skills? Even though they might be the perfect candidate on paper, they won't last if they aren't a team player.
Think about it in terms of product development. Of course, you want the product to perform at the highest level; that's a given. But if the workers who are responsible for its development can't communicate clearly about what makes the product special, it doesn't matter how keen their technical skills might be.
Similarly, employees who work in customer service will need to communicate with clients to ensure that their needs are being met. In addition to possessing a warm and personable attitude, they also need to remain organized and focused while on task. Otherwise, your company's bottom line could take a hit as a result.
Your hiring managers can help you determine whether potential job candidates have what it takes to move forward. In job interviews, ask the candidates to describe their best personality traits. You might also ask them to relate an anecdote about a time when they had to resolve a conflict in the workplace, and how they handled the situation. Their answers should provide you with a great deal of insight.
How Can You Foster Soft Skills in the Workplace?
It's not easy to teach soft skills through training. This is one of the most common small business challenges that modern companies have to face.
There's no hard data to rely on, for one thing. You can't measure improvement in any quantifiable way, nor can you determine whether an individual possesses these skills by administering a simple test.
That said, there are steps that your human resources department can take to ensure that your company remains competitive in this regard. Let's take a look at some of the possibilities.
1. Identify Problem Areas
Although you can't solve these issues with simple equations, you might be able to gather information about which skills need to be improved upon.
Teams that are constantly lagging behind deadlines, for example, may require time management training to help them stay on track. If clients are complaining about unprofessional or lackluster service, consider hosting a training seminar that focuses on people skills.
2. Encourage Feedback
Have your supervisors perform monthly reviews and share their evaluations with upper management. It can also be useful for employees to engage in peer reviews, just so you can be sure you're getting a well-rounded picture.
By tracking these reviews, you should be able to determine which areas are most deserving of your attention, and which employees are in need of further help. Once you're able to identify the gaps, you'll have a better idea of how to fill them in.
3. Hire Strong Leaders
Your managers and mentors are invaluable tools in your quest to foster stronger soft skills in the workplace.
Instead of merely bossing their underlings around, though, the workers who hold supervisory positions should strive to lead by example. Employees can't be expected to perform at a high level if the person in charge displays a poor work ethic.
4. Pay Close Attention to Cover Letters
During the hiring and onboarding process, don't be tempted to skim over cover letters. The information that potential hires reveal there can provide you with valuable insight.
Unlike resumes, which focus mainly on hard skills, cover letters allow you to gauge the applicant's emotional intelligence. They don't have to possess award-winning writing skills, but if they're able to sell themselves in a unique way, then there's a solid chance that they'll be an asset to your business.
5. Make Use of Online Resources
It might seem counterproductive to turn to the internet for honing skills like creativity and human contact, but the truth is, it's a valuable resource.
Why not take advantage of online seminars and learning programs to help you achieve your goals? You can integrate them into the regular workweek so that employees aren't required to do "homework" on their days off. Try to select ones that offer dialogue simulations, as these provide an opportunity for users to demonstrate their newfound skills.
Whether you're dealing with a potential candidate, a new hire, or a long-time employee, don't underestimate the value of soft skills. Creativity, friendliness, and problem-solving can go a long way, no matter what the nature of your business might be.
The good news is that you can develop these skills at any point in your professional life—and at minimal to no cost. That means there's no reason why you and your employees can't work together to build a better future for everyone involved.
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