In today’s hybrid world of work, soft skills need to be given equal prominence as hard skills in every role within an organization. Soft skills are human traits that are not necessarily measurable, but play an important role in quantitative performance.
Soft skills are qualitative traits such as the ability to collaborate, be able to express oneself and communicate freely, accepting different views, emotional and mental flexibility, and a positive attitude and team support. Whether or not you achieve a quantitative goal often comes down to whether or not you have these qualitative traits. Teams strong in these skills usually have a higher chance of achieving directional prosperity because they have the skills needed to adapt and pivot as their environments and resources change.
Employers who rely only on teams having hard skills (such as technical knowledge) only get so much. They achieve functional richness, which is limited because it depends on everything remaining the same. Any change can result in negative performance because their teams do not have the necessary skills to cope. The 2019 Global Talent Trend Report revealed that 89% Employers realized that poor hires often lack soft skills.
Developing soft skills within an organization is an ever-evolving process as we live in an ever-evolving society. Organizations have to reevaluate old practices and introduce new ones at the same time.
Accepting and respecting cultural and gender differences, acknowledging and sympathizing with mental health struggles, creating a safe work environment free of harassment and ensuring a fair complaints process are some of the dynamics that organizations have to address. Creating a foundation for organizations and their people to develop a “soft skills culture” where the overall prosperity of the team is given equal importance to the prosperity of the organization is becoming increasingly important.
Assessing soft skills is still a challenge for organizations, mainly because it is not easily measurable. Performance reviews have a short section on soft skills and focus more on quantitative goals, giving the wrong idea of what is more important. One way to address this dilemma is to focus on developing soft skills and creating an active culture of rewarding skills that lead to better performance.
Here are some innovative ways organizations can develop a culture that values soft skills:
1. Reverse Mentoring
In normal consulting relationships, employees want to maximize their potential and benefit from senior mentorship. Reverse mentoring is where team leaders consult with their employees to let them know. For example, some leaders lack the ability to communicate with kindness and delegate ineffectively simply because they are not on the ground. Having a few mentors in your teams who can provide advice on how to best communicate and delegate tasks shows a willingness to be empathetic and to listen to those below them in the organizational hierarchy. Implementing reverse mentoring is a clear indication that the organization values and emphasizes collaboration and open communication at all levels. It gives employees a voice in how they want to be treated.
2. Third-Party Evaluation
Performance reviews on soft skills should include input from third parties such as office receptionists, mailroom persons, building security personnel, cleaning workers and others. This is an effective way to gauge an employee’s true integrity when they feel no one is watching. This ensures a culture of safety and well-being as every employee knows that they must show respect to everyone at every level.
3. Team Watch
Most organizations’ approach to wellness is limited to gym memberships, medical coverage, and discounted access to health apps. While these have value, most organizations lack informal internal support systems. For example, as Neighborhood Watch is where neighbors look to protect their area, Team Watch is where members seek each other’s mental and emotional security. With the increase in mental and emotional health conflicts in the workplace, organizations are under pressure to prioritize mental wellness at work. Providing training for teams on how to care for each other and how to recognize signs of stress and burnout among their colleagues is a reflection of the organization’s empathy towards these challenges.
4. Active Training
Routine training is costly, time consuming and sometimes highly theoretical. Often, training sessions consist of case studies that explain the methodology and process for a situation. These case studies are based in the past.
Active training is where a real-life case is identified that will arise in the near future and the team is trained to develop a range of strategies, procedures and protocols to manage this scenario. Active training is incredibly valuable in providing these real-life scenarios to teams and showing them the importance of preparation, collaboration, communication, delegation and more. Once this scenario is realized and the team starts executing its plan, feedback is created and lessons are shared among the team. Applying these skills in real-life situations and “learning while doing” is one of the fastest ways to foster soft skills in a team.
In a world focused on the race for artificial intelligence, the time-tested winners will be those who nurture and nurture emotional and mental intelligence. Much is made of “great resignations,” but in this redistribution and redistribution of resources there is a great opportunity to demonstrate your respect and reward to the “soft side” in the interest of delivering difficult results for employers and employees.