Soft skills, defined as interpersonal skills that describe how people relate and interact with others, are important for successful companies. Unfortunately, many executives don’t see the value in investing in soft skills training.. This is usually due to misconceptions about why soft skills matter. Here are six reasons why soft skills should matter to your organization
1. “Soft skills are inherent. You can’t learn them.”
While some people have a talent for soft skills, like communication, negotiation, and emotional intelligence, everyone can learn them, regardless of innate ability. Having available learning opportunities for your employees on the traditional soft skills can help every skill level. Soft skills should be practiced regularly and having opportunity for an employee to demonstrate those skills will go a long way in developing them. Consider formal workshops, lunch-and-learns, coaching sessions and informal peer feedback as ways to build in on-the-job development.
2. “[Gender/Race/Generation] are just better at certain soft skills.”
This idea is as incorrect as it is damaging. No one gender, race, or age group is better at any soft skill than any other. It all comes down to the individual person. An example of this is when you consider gender roles: men in the United States are socialized with the ideal of being the “strong, silent type,” but in reality, many are excellent communicators. As for generational differences, Millennials do spend a lot of time glued to a screen but doing so is often a way to socialize with distant friends and family. Moreover, soft skills don’t cancel themselves out: you can be a decisive leader and an empathetic listener at the same time.
3. “Soft skills are the same as communication skills.”
Communication skills–like listening–are a subset of soft skills, not a synonym. Soft skills include communication, leadership, problem solving, time management, and more. Communication is just one example of a soft skill.
4. “Soft skills only matter in customer service or client-facing positions.”
As stated above, soft skills are varied. While good interpersonal skills are crucial for a successful (and happy) career in customer service, those skills are useful for everyone in a company. IT, Human Resources, Marketing, Accounting all benefit from improving time management or communication.
5. “Soft skills alone will determine your career success.”
Personal charm can only take you so far. Soft skills have their place in the corporate world, but hard skills are just as valuable. Soft skills might get you an interview or a promotion, but you’ll only get or keep the job if you can actually do the work. It is important to have a foundation of soft and hard skills and, luckily, both can be learned!
6. “It’s impossible to measure the return on investment (ROI), so we shouldn’t bother with soft skills training.”
While it is difficult to measure the return on soft skills alone, you can witness the impact of their improvement in a myriad of ways. Whether it’s more efficient interdepartmental reports (communication), innovations in products (problem solving), or employee morale (leadership), you will notice the effect of soft skills training. A highly development evaluation and measurement strategy can link soft skills back to performance and help to demonstrate the ROI of a soft skills training initiative.
As you can see, soft skills have a place in any training program. Just as you would encourage your employees to develop hard skills, so too should you encourage them to work on their soft skills. Not only will it help them as individuals, it will help your company as a whole!