Hard skills are pretty easily defined: they’re specific abilities related to a certain task. Hard skills usually require job-specific training to acquire, such as driving a semi, maneuvering a forklift, or using a certain piece of software. These are not things people are born with, but instead have to learn through specialized instruction. Hard skills typically have a defined beginning and end.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are not so easy to quantify. Soft skills in the workplace can look very different depending on the industry involved. A good soft skills definition is any ability that works across tasks, can be partially innate, and has no easy definition or clear boundary.
For instance, “people skills” are widely applicable across tasks. Sales, repair, customer service, and management positions will all benefit from having someone with these skills. “People skills” consist of things like communication, empathy, active listening, problem-solving, and etiquette. These abilities are something we recognize on sight, but often have a hard time defining.
What is soft skills training?
Your soft skills training definition will vary from another company’s definition, but should not consist of stale lectures that employees forget almost immediately. Instead, soft skills training should be interactive, relevant, and yes, even fun. You can teach communication skills by using a scenario likely to arise inside your business. These “what-ifs” not only teach general skills, but they help your workforce feel equipped for job-specific situations they may encounter.
For example, if you run an electronics store, you might teach your reps how to deal with a customer trying to return an item that they damaged or claim a warranty that they no longer qualify for. This not only empowers your employees to deal with upset customers in general, but also arms them to take specific actions according to your company policy. They won’t have to go running to a manager, but can handle the situation calmly, which will ultimately increase the odds the interaction ends well instead of badly. Confident employees work harder, achieve more, and quit less often—so give them the skills they need to benefit themselves AND your business!
Examples of soft skills
Soft skills aren’t always easy to define, but we all recognize them as vital. They tend to be more social, interactive, and nebulous than hard skills like coding, machine repair, or driving heavy equipment. Below, we’ve listed a few examples of soft skills that can benefit every employee in your organization.
Good communication does more than just prevent misunderstandings. It moves information efficiently from one person to another, so that vital tasks can be accomplished. Using the correct terms and definitions is essential in a company with complex products and services. Tactfulness can also help employees deliver feedback without unduly stepping on toes.
Grouping similar objects together is about so much more than straightening up your desk. Recognizing which things are most like each other can help you assign tasks for group projects, prioritize projects by deadline, and recognize which employee skills are necessary to accomplish a goal.
We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it. Leadership requires confidence, communication, delegation, trust, and the ability to assess both people and situations. Good leaders oversee their projects and remain involved without micromanaging. Finding this balance can be hard, but by building up these soft skills in your employees, you widening the pool of future managers at your company.
When someone becomes too invested in a plan, idea, or expected outcome, they devote too many resources toward making sure it happens like they expect it to. Flexibility, on the other hand, is the realization that circumstances can change in real-time, and you may need to pivot to address them. Being humble enough to accept an unexpected path to the finish line can reduce stress and enhance efficiency in any aspect of your company.
The importance of soft skills in the workplace
You may be wondering exactly how nurturing soft skills can impact your company for the better. Soft skills in the workplace are often overlooked because they’re harder to pinpoint than hard skills. But don’t let their broad applicability fool you: the importance of soft skills cannot be overstated. Here are a few reasons why…
Soft skills like communication and organization can improve employee productivity and overall efficiency. Developing soft skills in your employees can help them perform a multitude of tasks more easily, meaning that they’ll get more done each day.
Accomplishing more each day is a good thing, but not if it comes with extra stress. That’s why empowering your workforce to succeed is so important. Giving your employees more tools will allow them to perform better and avoid burnout. Better soft skills lead to less worry—and lower stress levels means happier, more satisfied employees.
Increase employee retention
Soft skills are the one thing that AI and computers can’t replicate. Employees with soft skills are highly valuable, and offering soft skills training to your current workforce will increase their value to your company. Furthermore, by arming your employees with better skills, they’ll feel more confident in their abilities, and are less likely to look for a different job.
How to improve soft skills
Soft skills training should be a priority in every business. The benefits of soft skills development extend across all aspects of an organization, so don’t cut corners when it comes to encouraging these vital skills. There are many soft skills training programs out there, but not all of them bring the level of engagement necessary to be effective.
You might know that you need better continuing education for your employees and yet still hesitate to get started. The options can be overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. Soft skills training examples offer you a solid foundation for improving your workforce, one step at a time.
It’s not enough to press play on a training video and call it a day. Employees don’t want to be preached to—they want to be empowered to tackle everyday tasks with more resources, confidence, and self-responsibility. So don’t give them a generic lesson. Address the specific pain points they already face in their daily work life. If you don’t know where to begin, survey your employees about where they could use more help.
Is it customer service? Using your inventory program? Sales procedures? Finding out and addressing these areas with company-specific education will get your soft skills training program off to a rollicking start.
The benefits of soft skills training online
If 2020 taught us anything, it was how to become creative with remote applications. Some things didn’t adapt very well, but soft skills training courses are a perfect fit for distance learning. Whether your employees are back at the office, working from home, or both, soft skills training modules can be completed from anywhere.
The best soft skills courses are self-paced, flexible, and track employee progress across time. It incorporates milestones, achievements, and badges to keep your employees engaged and feeling a sense of accomplishment for each module they complete. Mini-goals and micro-steps are the best way to motivate completion. Nothing is more daunting than staring at a huge pile of coursework and wondering where to begin, so breaking it into smaller segments is the best way to keep employees from abandoning the course.
There are different types of soft skills training, but the only kind that matters is the one that truly helps your employees. Hands-on practice is a must, and that’s why you need to make sure the training is relevant to your industry, company, and brand. What motto or purpose do you try to live up to? What is your mission statement, and how can soft skills contribute to that mission? People like to be part of something bigger than themselves, so making them feel included in your mission will drive engagement and retention even higher.
If you operate in an industry that requires licensure or certification, soft skills certification training courses are a wonderful adjunct. Building up soft skills like problem solving, organization, and leadership, for example, could help your employees complete a safety course with higher scores. You can also create your own certifications, such as “expert listener” and “team player” to reward employees who put in the work.
Most importantly, online training courses give both the employee and the employer immediate feedback. The employee can gauge their proficiency based on their test scores and the employer can take stock of the expertise levels available to them throughout the workforce. Always reach out to your employees to make sure they are getting what they need out of the training modules, and take suggestions for areas of improvement or additions to the course.
How we can help deliver online soft skills training
The best soft skills courses benefit both the employer and the employee, and our products deliver exactly that. See why companies use our training software to share knowledge, develop hard and soft skills, and reinforce best practices.