Are you experiencing a soft skills gap in your organisation? It’s a commonly uttered saying that technical (or hard) skills will get you hired, but a lack of soft skills will inevitably get your fired. Soft skills are the intangible, emotional, hard to train, yet unequivocally hard to replace kind of skills.
We’re talking about things like leadership, emotional intelligence, communication and empathy. These soft skills contribute significantly to the performance and culture of your organisation, and can quickly be your company’s downfall if you don’t regularly invest in their improvement among employees.
Read on to get our top four tips for teaching soft skills to your employees and changing your corporate culture in the process:
Tip #1: Walk the Talk
Soft skills come naturally to some people - being an effective communicator and problem-solver, collaborating on a team, adapting to change, and being able to resolve conflict for the good of the group. But you can't expect your employees to embody these skills if you're not executing them and using them yourself.
Your employees are looking to you to be a leader in all areas of management - and you can help get them to your level by modeling it in the simplest of ways. When a challenge or less-than-ideal situation comes along at the office, don't go off the deep-end. Instead, show how good you are at conflict resolution and hearing both sides before resolving the issues at hand. Your employees will be watching.
Tip #2: Educate and Train
Next, after modeling the soft skills you want your employees to embrace, it's time to open the classroom. Invite your team to a session on each soft skill you want them to embody - such as learning to be a better communicator or learning to adapt to change when you don't want to. Offer the sessions during working hours and provide lunch so that learning these soft skills comes with an incentive.
Tip #3: Hire, Fire and Reward Based on Soft Skill Competence
After your team has been fully trained in the soft skills that are strategic for your culture to move forward, it's now time to put them to the test. You can't expect your employees to immediately adopt this new set of skills - any skill requires ongoing training and discipline to improve.
Sometimes it doesn't come naturally! But like any habit, if you give your employees a chance to adopt the skills and to put them into practice over time - those skills can become second nature.
You might, for example, give your employees a full year to incorporate these soft skills into their work-life plan. You can track their progress through an incentivized program in which they have to prove they are using the skills.
If you have employees who refuse to adopt the soft skills - or you have employees who are not deploying them correctly or often enough - and you have given them sufficient time to learn them, then you might want to consider letting them go.
For the employees who are meeting or exceeding the goals of adopting the soft skills, you should incentivize and reward them. Make it a contest at your company to see who can improve their soft skills the most over time. You'll create friendly competition that gets your employees practicing those skills even more.
Finally, look for these soft skills in the new people you hire. There is nothing that can replace a natural or near-natural ability to use these skills.
Tip #4: Build Soft Skill Development into Regular Performance Reviews
Firing an employee who is not meeting your company standards for adopting soft skills, can become an HR nightmare if you don't have their job competencies well documented. That's why it is so important to train and then track these skills as a part of performance measurement.
One key way to do this is to incorporate your employees' soft skill progress into their performance reviews. This is a great time to talk about their progress, needed improvement and other issues - and get it in writing.
If an employee protests that you are being too harsh when it comes to disciplinary action, you have a written document to refer back to and highlight the lack of willful progression.
Are You Ready to Get Started?
With just a little research and practice on your part, you can be leading the charge to positively influence the corporate culture at your business. It really begins with identifying the soft skills that are essential for high performance in your organisation, and teaching those critical soft skills to your entire team.
It may take a little time to get there, but with a commitment to change, your entire company will be on its way to living a more productive and healthy culture that affirms the very best of your brand.