Soft skills, such as communication and creativity, are just as important as ‘hard’, job-specific skills. But employers sometimes shy away from providing training on these people-centred topics. So here we look at why soft skills are important, and why they can be improved through workplace training.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the ‘life skills’ that help us interact effectively with other people, solve problems and generally navigate through life effectively. Unlike ‘hard skills’, they’re not specific to a job or task, but can be applied to almost everything we do. Examples of soft skills include:

  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Effective communication
  • Problem solving
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy

 

Why are soft skills important in the workplace?

Soft skills are vital to workplace success. Take creativity, for example. According to an IBM study, one of the major challenges facing organisations today is increasing complexity. In the same study, CEOs identified creativity as “the single most important leadership competency for enterprises seeking a path through this complexity.”

Workplace stress is on the rise, and according to the Health and Safety Executive, relationships are among the six leading causes. Communication skills, empathy and leadership qualities – all soft skills – can contribute to more effective workplace relationships. Conversely, where leaders find it difficult to connect with and understand colleagues, there’s an increased risk of stress. It could even lead to claims of bullying, absence and increased turnover.

A 2011 study by CareerBuilder found that 71% of hiring managers value emotional intelligence over IQ.

Can soft skills be learned through training in the workplace?

The short answer to whether soft skills can acquired through training in the workplace is yes. Sure, skills like communication may not come as naturally to some as it does to others. But techniques such as active listening and awareness of nonverbal cues can absolutely be taught.

Studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of creativity training. One study found that around 90% of programmes produce positive results.

The challenge is perhaps less in the actual teaching, but in engaging people with the idea of softer skills training. Participants must be genuinely willing to examine their own behaviours, and because this kind of training touches upon more personal topics, it has to be tackled sensitively.

It can help to use external specialists for this kind of training. Not only will you benefit from their expertise, you may also find that using someone extenal could help participants to be more open.

Examples of soft skills courses include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Assertiveness skills
  • Effective communication
  • Coaching skills
  • Influencing skills

 

Find out more

If you’re interested in any of the above courses, get in touch. We offer expert training on a wide range of business skills subjects. We also offer courses on more specific vocational topics such as health and safety and first aid. Contact us via the form below or call 0207 112 8412.