“Soft skills” is not a new term, however, the level of importance around these skills has significantly increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
From workers in entry-level positions to those in big management roles, resilience, adaptability, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities are skills that all employees need to become experts in. This is how businesses will continue to grow in a future that will likely become even more unpredictable and inconsistent.
With a generation of consumers who are willing to pay more to get the best customer experience, we cannot afford to underemphasise the importance of interpersonal skills. A book I recently read by Tiffany Bova – Growth IQ – brought to light that 70% of Americans are willing to spend 13% more for excellent customer service. With the promise of top-quality customer service, 59% of customers said they would opt to try a new brand for a better experience. Effective customer service – and therefore customer loyalty – is just one of the benefits of prioritising the development of soft skills in your business. You can also expect to see greater productivity, improved team dynamics, and increased employee retention rates among some of the effects.
The demand for exceptional customer service, together with the need to build resilience in a volatile environment has challenged all businesses to refocus where they are putting their attention, and rather invest in core skills.
How to Put Soft Skills at the Forefront
In order to develop and thrive as a company, your goal cannot simply be to recover from a challenge, but to use obstacles as an opportunity for growth. This is the difference between ‘bouncing back’ and ‘bouncing forward’.
In order to keep growing in an ever-changing world, you need to revolutionise the way you and your employees perceive soft skills. Here’s how:
Reframe the terminology
Words are powerful. With a connotation of lower importance around the term “soft skills”, I’ve come to think that we should instead be referring to these critical capabilities as “power skills”.
In the past, job roles were more defined. Where employees were often simply a cog in the machine, interpersonal and creative skills were seen as less crucial than technical skills. Although the pandemic was not the root of the importance of “power skills” (as I now call them), it has quickly highlighted where those skills are missing within the business world. What others call “soft skills” have been greatly downplayed, so now we need to bring them to the centre of our skills development training.
Develop key performance indicators
We need to place business value behind “power skills”. Turn the subtleness of soft skills into tangible goals. If we don’t have a benchmark for achievement, those ideas will be placed on the back burner. Staff on an operational level need to emphasise the gravity of these skills by introducing KPIs that can measure and track their employees’ growth in the areas of specific power skills.
Here’s a practical guideline on how you can do this:
Define the three most essential “power skills” in your unique business (Jim Collins said in his book Good to Great: “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”), and ask your employees to rate themselves with a number between 1-10 in those skills. A key note here is that if you haven’t created a safe space for employees to share their honest perception of their skills – without the fear of their job at risk – you are not going to achieve anything with these KPIs.
Openly tracking your team’s performance will legitimise the importance of “power skills”. If you measure the development of these skills next to practical outcomes, you will see tangible evidence of the work your employees are putting in to reach these goals. For example, having difficult, honest conversations is a skill. Those talks will lead to a relationship where employees and managers can work together to create a positive working environment, and this will result in better staff retention.
Provide progressive rewards
Nowadays – especially amongst the millennial generation – there is a strong desire for measurable progression. Why? Because that’s what the world is feeding us. Everything works in tiers and levels of achievement. Whether it’s through online gaming, learning a new language, even our medical-aid schemes offer rewards. People crave progression, so businesses need to get on board and use this to their best advantage. A great way we like to do this is through online badges.
This way even the cleaning staff members, for example, are encouraged to work on their problem-solving skills. This not only makes reskilling a lot more achievable but also highlights where your employees’ best strengths are and if they are actually in the most beneficial job to push your company to success.
How Organisations Can Teach These Essential Skills
The first step to teaching “power skills” is to create a safe environment where employees feel secure and encouraged to learn from failure. Although these are core, fundamental skills, very few people actually have a grasp on them. Failure is almost a guarantee, so do your employees feel valuable enough in their job that the first sight of failure won’t cause them to give in?
The most important skills to excel in going forward are interpersonal skills that can be taken across multiple industries and roles. The fact is reskilling is going to be prevalent in the future of work. A survey by the McKinsley Global Institute proved that around 17 million employees in the US alone will need to shift careers by 2030, so it’s crucial that businesses prepare for this demand for reskilling. The demand for various technical skills will come and go, but “power skills” will always be essential.
Summit uses innovative frameworks and unique learning journeys to build these critical skills across all your departments. By building your staff’s foundational “power skills” today, you are equipping them to excel tomorrow. Get in touch with Summit today to bring “power skills” to the centre of your staff training.
About the Author: Matt Lambert, Managing Director
Matt has a passion for innovation and doing things differently, which comes from his broad experience in front line and management roles within Business Intelligence, Sales, New Business Development and Commercial Finance held within blue chip companies. Matt has worked across five continents and 19 countries to launch new products, establish sales operations and lead strategic projects.
His passion for education comes from a desire to address fundamental structural issues within Africa. Matt has extensive experience within International Hotel School heading up its Durban Campus before taking over the online business, and then moving to Operations Director, before taking over and growing Summit since the beginning of 2018.