Offbeat

Monthly publication/newsletter giving you insights on the latest things that happen in the Learning & Development Space.

Why are Soft Skills Important?

Demystifying leadership for L&D professionals and learning-focused organisations with an expert who’s done it all – including writing a book on the topic.

Highlights:
* Soft skills address practical aspects of working in a team: asking questions, suggesting ideas, having a conversation with someone who doesn’t share your opinions, or presenting your work to other people.
* Communication is the central focus of soft skills development. Soft skills also encompass emotional intelligence development, empathy, negotiation, and others.
* The more responsibility a person has towards increasingly larger groups of people (for example, being in a managerial position or client-facing), the impact of having good soft skills becomes more important than having technical skills.
* Soft skills development is more often than not requested or necessary in a context where the company is trying to address a more complex organizational problem: lack of motivation or engagement among employees, attrition, low performance, lousy customer relationships.
* A standalone soft skills program or a one-off training, even if delivered by an exceptional speaker or provider, doesn’t resolve the source problem. Employees will go back to their original work context and will not apply the learnings; even worse, they might become more frustrated because of the discrepancy between what they just learned and what they see happening in practice, day-to-day.
* Soft skills development goes hand in hand with a consultative approach; L&D professionals (both in-house and independent consultants) must be aware of the broader context of that request or need and make holistic suggestions to address the problems they observe.
* It’s not uncommon for a company with a less organized talent development framework to come to L&D professionals asking for a specific training intervention (for example, presentation skills training) when the underlying issue is, in fact, more complex. The consultative aspect of L&D work comes into play here.
* If, however, an organization has a robust talent development framework that is consistently applied, specific L&D interventions are likely enough to address particular problems quickly and effectively.
* Large companies have year-long budgeting and planning processes, so it’s hard for them to offer just-in-time soft skills development.
* For small companies, time is the biggest issue, as everyone is essential to the business, and people can’t break away from their pressing day-to-day duties to dedicate time to learning.
* Developing your soft skills is never a finite journey – while learning how to communicate with people effectively, you can always expect a new situation to surprise you and become another opportunity to learn.
* The reason it’s difficult to measure progress in soft skills is because it’s a subjective human experience that always involves at least two people. That said, a company should still create a performance management process with levels of measurement, knowing that this is contextual and not an absolute measure of progress.
* As with any company-wide initiative, implementing a soft skills development program must start with the explicit buy-in of leadership. This happens successfully when leaders embody the new learnings and consistently support the development of soft skills in the organization.

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More episode from this series

We're joined by Andrei Postolache, founder at Xeriously, leadership & soft skills consultant, and author of Fun & Fearless Leadership. Our conversations explore the intricacies of being a good leader in a complex working environment, the discipline and skillset required to put together and lead high performing teams and how that ties into L&D initiatives in the organisation.

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