“I have a Masters Degree in addition to a post graduate diploma in computer application but I am unable to gain professional success”, my friend’s son bemoaned. “These are hard skills which is probably easy to gain but do you have the requisite soft skills to make it big?”, I asked. His blank expression was an answer in itself. Soft skills can be thought of as the “abilities required in the workplace for professional success” (Georges, 1996). Good communication, networking abilities, compassion, team building and other essential personal skills and social capabilities are considered as soft skills which is necessary to complement hard skills such as education and work experience.
To put it lucidly, soft skills is something you can start working on right now irrespective of whether you are a student, employee or a leader. Several fortune 500 companies across the globe have recognized the importance of soft skills training in achieving optimum productivity and profitability. Let’s look at 5 emerging trends in soft skills training:-
- Soft skills will be valued higher than hard skills – The top management expect their teams to communicate effectively, collaborate effectually and work productively. Mere technical qualification may not help in achieving this. According to Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of futurethink, an internationally recognised innovation research and training company in the United States “soft skills such as listening, creativity, agility and problem-solving, are becoming as important as expertise and technical competency.” It’s the application of soft skills that distinguishes an average performer from a great performer. Today, soft skills are just as important as hard skills, if not more. In Singapore, a survey found employers are hiring candidates based on soft skills, rather than academic results.
- Short and interactive session is the way to go – A week long training session is a big no-no for the millennials. If you want to motivate the Gen Y, then your soft skills training programs should be a half a day or a day long one and don’t forget to interlude it with a feedback session. Though the young employees expect immediate results from such a program, experts believe that habits can take some time to change. After all, soft skills are habits as well as skills. It’s the real situations in their professional and personal lives which will enable individuals to develop and hone soft skills.
- Investing in soft skills training will yield great results – A study conducted by Development Dimensions International found that for every $1,100 invested in soft skills training, employers earned an average return of $4,000. Employee miscommunications cost businesses US $37 billion every year in the US and UK. Little wonder then that Singapore government is urging students to develop soft skills, particularly abilities to work cross culturally and in teams. For an organization’s bright future, it’s prudent to invest in soft skills training instead of merely focusing on technical skills. In India, the realization has already set in that lack of soft skills can bring down the bottom line. In the future, we are more likely to see companies investing a substantial amount on soft skills training.
- Growing need for ‘certified’ soft skill trainers– It’s not just working professionals, but school children and college students too are comprehending the importance of soft skills. There is a growing need for certified soft skill trainers who as Atkinson says have to deliver fun and action-oriented trainings. “Millennials are the fastest growing generation in the workplace and organizations that implement an engaging training program aligned with both business and personal goals of Gen Y will receive incredibly high return on investment”, Atkinson says.
- Instructor led online training will become popular– With the growing popularity of online virtual classrooms, conventional training(read classroom based) or webinars may cease to exist. The uniqueness of virtual classrooms lies in its flexibility, cost effectiveness and scalability. App based or mobile training is also a much sought after option which will top the popularity charts in the coming months.
To conclude, a single learning session or a training environment is not sufficient enough to absorb soft skills. Guided and repeated skill practice in real situations will help people achieve the desired results in their professional, social and personal lives.