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Developing soft skills: practical advice to improve the skills of your employees

Soft skills or soft skills have become the true protagonists of job offers. Now more than ever, companies need their employees to have capabilities that go beyond those strictly linked to the job position to be performed.

In this way, we need a member of the accounting staff to have accounting training and know how to use certain software to fulfill their task, but also to be able to work under pressure and have good analytical skills.

It could be said that the The “perfect” employee is one who combines hard and soft skills. Because only in this way will you be truly capable of dealing with the changes that are going to take place in the way you work over time.

For decades, companies have used training to improve the skills of their staff members, thus preventing their knowledge from becoming obsolete. As soft skills have gained importance in professional profiles, organizations have realized that they also need do your part so that your employees develop these types of skills. Let's see what they can do to achieve this.

Table of Contents

Promote learning mindset

Soft skills are basically acquired with the passage of time and as a result of the experiences lived. In this way, someone who belongs to a large family will, a priori, have a greater capacity for teamwork than someone who is an only child.

However, it is time to banish the myth that soft skills cannot be learned through a training system. In the same way that a person can learn to use a computer program or prepare an order in a certain way, they can also learn how to have more empathy, communicate better, or organize work time.

Precisely for this reason, the first thing that the company has to do is promote a learning mindset. Mentalize your employees that they can develop their soft skills through adequate training and the consequent implementation of the same.

The problem with soft skills is that its development is slower than that of hard skills. They are closely linked to the personality of the person, so integrating new skills, and getting them to become something natural for the subject, is complicated.

In this sense, it is necessary to break down the barriers that may exist in terms of training in these matters, demonstrating that they can be learned and that they help improve performance. What's more, they can even become very useful outside of work.

If employees are willing to put in the effort and learn new soft skills, we've taken the first step toward developing them.

encourage self-reflection

Soft skills are so linked to personality that it can be difficult for the company to evaluate them. How to know which employees have good communication skills and which have the potential to develop it? How many would be interested in learning how to better organize their tasks?

It is difficult for the organization to effectively answer these questions on its own, so it is best to go directly to the source: the employees.

A good way to promote the development of soft skills is to ask staff members to do a reflection exercise and be totally honest with themselves to detect which skills are more developed, which ones need more work, and locate those that have not worked at all.

Knowing what capabilities each one has and what they are interested in developing, the company will find it much easier to determine what kind of training set up and which workers should take part in it.

This is also a way to save resources, because we are going to avoid investing time and money in training a person with respect to a skill that they have already developed.

Foster knowledge about soft skills

We have already mentioned before that developing a soft skill takes time and effort. 

Suppose we have a shy person who needs to learn to speak in public and communicate better in order to continue advancing in their professional career. Your personality is a great barrier to achieving your goal, which allows us to anticipate that the first steps for you to overcome fear and speak in public are going to be complicated.

Developing a new capacity is not easy, and many times employees do not see a direct relationship between the skill that they want to teach and their work, which makes their resistance level against the formation rises.

The only way to overcome that resistance is by giving more information about what soft skills really entail and how they can help the person inside and outside of their job. For this reason, perhaps the best option is, before starting the training itself, to develop an awareness process on this subject.

For example, with talks or events that help staff members clarify their ideas about soft skills and the importance they may have.

organize learning

When we want an employee to improve their technical skills and we give them training, we do it little by little. First they are taught one thing and, once they have internalized the knowledge, they can move on to another subject.

With soft skills you have to act exactly the same. If we are working with a group of employees to help them develop critical thinking competency, we are going to focus on this for now. We are not going to overload them by making them learn, at the same time, how to develop their ability to adapt to changes.

Correct learning and development of soft skills requires that the person focus on working on it until internalizing it. Once this is already part of your day to day, then we can start training in another soft skill.

Give constant feedback

When employees have started training to develop a new skill, they must be given the opportunity to put it into practice. Only in this way are we going to get them to start developing new behavioral dynamics.

Going back to the example of the worker with a shy personality who has to learn to speak in public, once he begins his training in this area, the company must gradually put him in situations in which he needs to use this skill. A good idea may be to give him an increasingly extensive speaking time at meetings, or commission him to present a topic. Because only through practice is it possible to really develop a new skill.

But the practice itself is not enough, it must be guided, and the way to do that is through feedback.

Anyone who is working to develop a new capacity always feels a certain sense of insecurity, and does not know if they are doing it right. The role of the company in this case is focused on giving feedback.

You have to tell the employee when he is doing well, and congratulate him on his progress. In the same way, it is necessary to indicate what is being done wrong, and here it is necessary to be especially careful.

Negative feedback can kill a person's motivation to develop a new skill. Criticism must exist, since without it you cannot continue advancing in learning, but it always has to be constructive.

In other words, you can (and should) tell the person what they are failing at, but give tools that are useful to continue working on developing that capacity. The idea is that, even if we are communicating something negative, whoever receives the message should be even more motivated to keep trying after hearing what we had to say.

Assign complementary tasks

At the end of the training path we are going to have an employee who now has new skills, and it is time to let him continue to develop them in a more autonomous way and to show him that the organization trusts him. The way to do this is by assigning complementary tasks.

Tasks related to your usual job, and that imply putting into practice that new capacity in which you have been working. Only then will we be able to verify if all the effort made has really been useful for something.

On the other hand, the employee who is assigned new responsibilities feel more valued by the organization and that increases your productivity.

An employee with soft skills has a better ability to adapt to changes in the work environment, so we are talking about a factor that is totally necessary to develop a successful professional career. Hence, companies are increasingly interested in soft skills and, as we have just seen, these can play a very relevant role in their development within the members of their workforce. If everyone involved does a little bit of their part, the result will be beneficial for everyone.

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