This article will walk you through the steps to creating a robust soft-skill training program. We’ll also list the top skills that will prove invaluable in the workplace and explain the benefits of soft skill training.
What is soft skill training?
Soft skills, also called interpersonal or people skills, are non-technical abilities that improve communication, collaboration, and personal interaction. You need these skills to build good relationships, deal with change, and succeed in professional and social settings.
Unlike hard skills, which are more technical and sector-specific, soft skills focus on people. Some examples of hard skills are programming and coding, project management, graphic design, digital marketing, and so on. On the other hand, soft skills often relate to problem-solving, communication, or conflict-resolution abilities.
For example, the hard skills in website design might include setting up a website domain using a service like NameCheap, Only Domains, or GoDaddy and coding the elements required. However, the soft skills required will include the creativity needed to make a website pop and the communication skills to work with a client and achieve their desired outcome.
What are the benefits of launching a soft skill training program?
Here are some of the many reasons why investing in programs to retrain or reskill your staff is a good idea:
1. Improved employee performance
Employee productivity rises as a result of improved teamwork, time management, and the ability to adjust to new circumstances on the job, all of which are soft skills that can be taught.
2. Better leadership
Leaders with solid soft skills are better able to inspire, guide, and motivate their teams, which in turn improves morale and productivity.
3. Enhanced customer relations
Employees who have developed their soft skills are able to better meet the needs of their customers, which in turn increases customer retention and satisfaction.
4. Increased job satisfaction
Increased confidence, competence, and appreciation at work can lead to greater job satisfaction.
5. Organizational success
Having employees who are well-versed in soft skills can boost an organization's productivity, creativity, and flexibility.
How to develop an effective soft skill training program
As part of a larger recruitment strategy, let us talk about how to design your program, keep participants engaged, and implement soft skill training.
Designing your program
Choosing training methods
Selecting the right training methods is a critical step in designing an effective soft skills training program. Consider the following approaches:
- Workshops and Seminars: Interactive workshops and seminars provide hands-on learning experiences, allowing participants to practice and apply soft skills in a controlled environment.
- Online Courses and E-Learning: Online platforms offer flexibility for participants to access training materials at their convenience. E-learning modules can include videos, quizzes, and discussion forums.
- Coaching and Mentoring: One-on-one coaching or mentorship programs provide personalized guidance and feedback to help individuals develop specific soft skills.
Customizing training content
Tailoring your training content ensures that it aligns with your organization's goals and the unique needs of your participants. Consider these steps:
- Identify Core Soft Skills: Determine which soft skills are most relevant to your organization and industry. Common soft skills include communication, leadership, and teamwork.
- Industry-Specific Skills: If your industry has unique soft skill requirements, choose relevant training elements to address these specific needs.
- Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios: Use real-world examples and scenarios that resonate with your participants, making the training content more relatable and practical.
Developing a training schedule
Creating a well-structured training schedule is essential for effective program implementation:
- Set Clear Milestones: Define training objectives and break them down into manageable milestones to track progress.
- Allocate Sufficient Time: Ensure participants have enough time to absorb and practice the soft skills being taught without feeling rushed.
- Consistency: Maintain a consistent schedule to improve training engagement and ensure employees stay committed to their development.
Making training relevant
To keep participants engaged, it's crucial to demonstrate the relevance of soft skill training to their roles and personal growth:
- Contextualize Learning: Connect the training content to real-life situations and job responsibilities, highlighting how these skills benefit both the individual and the organization.
- Showcase Success Stories: Share examples of individuals who have benefited from the training, emphasizing how it positively impacted their careers.
Incorporating interactive activities
Interactive activities can make the training more engaging and memorable:
- Role-Playing: Encourage participants to role-play scenarios that require the application of soft skills, providing them with a safe space to practice and receive feedback.
- Group Discussions: Foster peer learning by organizing group discussions where participants can share their experiences and insights.
- Gamification: Introduce game elements to the training, such as quizzes, simulations, or challenges, to make the learning experience enjoyable.
Constructive feedback is essential for participants to understand their progress and areas for improvement:
- Regular Assessments: Conduct periodic assessments or evaluations to gauge participants' soft skill development. Provide feedback on their strengths and areas needing improvement.
- Peer Feedback: Encourage participants to provide feedback to one another, promoting a supportive learning community.
- Individual Coaching: Offer one-on-one coaching sessions to provide personalized feedback and guidance based on each participant's unique needs.
Implementation and logistics
Communication and promotion
Effective communication and promotion are essential to ensuring that your soft skills training program reaches and engages your target audience:
- Clear Communication: Start by clearly communicating the purpose, objectives, and benefits of the training program to all relevant stakeholders, including employees, managers, and HR teams.
- Orientation Sessions: Host orientation sessions to provide an overview of the program and address any questions or concerns participants may have.
- Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism for participants to express their expectations and preferences, allowing you to tailor the program to their needs.
Allocate the necessary resources to ensure the successful execution of your soft skills training program:
- Budgeting: Determine the budget required for training materials, technology, facilitators, and any other expenses associated with the program.
- Facilitators and Trainers: Identify and train qualified facilitators or trainers who can effectively deliver the content and engage participants.
- Training Materials: Prepare or procure the necessary training materials, including presentations, handouts, workbooks, and digital resources.
- Technology and Tools: This is crucial if your program involves online learning. Ensure that the required technology and tools are in place and accessible to participants.
Challenges may arise during the implementation of your soft skills training program. Here are strategies to address them effectively:
- Resistance to Change: Some participants may be resistant to change or skeptical about the program's benefits. Address this by clearly communicating the value of soft skills and sharing success stories.
- Scheduling Conflicts: Participants may have busy schedules. Offer flexible training options, such as different time slots or on-demand access to materials.
- Measuring ROI: Demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) of soft skills training can be challenging. Use metrics like improved team dynamics, reduced conflicts, and increased employee engagement to quantify the impact.
- Lack of Engagement: If participants are disengaged, consider adjusting the training format, incorporating more interactive elements, or providing additional incentives or recognition such as digital badges and certificates.
- Limited Resources: In cases where resources are constrained, prioritize critical soft skills training and seek cost-effective solutions, such as online resources and in-house training.
- Tracking Progress: Implement a system for tracking and evaluating participants' progress throughout the program to ensure they are achieving the desired outcomes. It might also be worth tracking turnover rates (What is staff turnover?) after implementing your program.
Soft skills to add to your training program
Business development professionals and HR personnel should focus on developing the following soft skills in the workplace:
Effective verbal and written communication is crucial for conveying ideas, collaborating with colleagues, and building strong relationships. These skills could be beneficial in, for example, a data breach. While you’ll need operational risk management tools, employees with strong communication skills may be better equipped to communicate effectively in risk management processes.
Teamwork and collaboration
The ability to work harmoniously in a team, share responsibilities, and contribute to group goals is vital for achieving success in many workplace environments.
Time management and organization
Effective time management ensures tasks are completed efficiently, deadlines are met, and workloads are balanced.
Problem solving and critical thinking
Employees who can analyze complex issues, think critically, and propose innovative solutions are invaluable assets to any organization.
Adaptability and flexibility
Given the rapid pace of change in today's workplaces, individuals who can adapt are highly sought after. For example, a call center may need to switch to new call tracking for small business software. In this case, employees need adaptability and flexibility to maximize the new software.
Leadership and influence
Even employees who are not in formal leadership positions can benefit from leadership skills, which include the ability to motivate, inspire, and guide others.
Emotional intelligence (EQ)
EQ involves recognizing, understanding, and managing one's own emotions as well as being attuned to the emotions of others. It's critical for effective interpersonal relationships.
In high-pressure work settings, the ability to manage stress and maintain composure is vital for personal well-being and productivity. Wellness programs for employees could also be beneficial in this regard.
Customer service skills
Employees who interact with customers should possess strong customer service skills, which include empathy, active listening, and problem-solving.
Being able to address and resolve conflicts constructively promotes a fair work environment and prevents issues from escalating.
Invest in your organization’s future
Developing an effective soft skills training program is a strategic investment in personal and organizational growth. By focusing on skill relevance, engagement, and clear communication, organizations can equip their teams with the essential soft skills needed to thrive in today's dynamic workplaces.
Encourage training and course uptake and completion rates with our free, downloadable guide How to Increase Course Completion with Digital Credentials. Use the guide to motivate program enrollment, gamify the learner flow to encourage program completion, motivate learners to earn and share their credentials and ensure training is accessible to all learner types.