However, there’s a disconnect between the efforts of L&D departments and employees. We’ve found that L&D leaders feel getting employees to make time for soft skills training to be their top challenge. And yet, 94% of employees say that they’re more likely to stay at a company longer if there are opportunities for professional development.
The problem isn’t getting employees to understand the importance of soft skills training. Rather, L&D leaders need to facilitate more convenient access to professional development courses.
Training your workforce to fill skills gaps is more cost effective than trying to hire specialized employees for each new demand. Executives and L&D leaders can agree on this point—but that doesn’t mean they’re always on the same page.
Our research has found that L&D departments are often more focused on immediate needs than executives would like. Rather than training for today’s demands, executives want more focus on identifying trending skills that will create gaps down the road.
Getting employees up to speed with technical skills is important, but adaptability is the key to success in professional development programs. Today’s important hard skills could be automated tomorrow, which highlights the importance of soft skills.
The best professional development programs will offer the right balance of technical and soft skills training in a way that fits easily into the busy schedules of employees.
When hard skills are the primary focus, it’s easy to quantify abilities and match them to a specific role in an organization. We’re getting better at quantifying soft skills but measuring ROI can be a challenge. Qualitative feedback is a good start. However, we should really be paying attention to how soft skills training correlates with team metrics and employee retention.
The following 5 soft skills don’t just increase the performance of individual employees. They boost team and company-wide performance as well.
- Communication: Written and verbal communication skills are largely responsible for how co-workers perceive an individual’s capabilities and contributions to the organization. When an employee can communicate effectively, it makes them come across as more productive while also making it easier to build relationships and collaborate across the organization.
- Adaptability/Flexibility: Because market demands change so rapidly, employees can’t grow complacent with their existing skillsets. Recognizing the importance of soft skills means remaining flexible, pivoting and learning as roles transform to keep companies ahead of their competition.
- Critical Thinking: Especially in the age of big data, businesses need to know that employees can put an abundance of information to good use. Data doesn’t help the business much if no one can pull valuable insights from it. Employees that bring unique perspectives and ideas to an organization will be highly valued regardless of changes in necessary hard skills.
- Time Management: The lines between work and life are blurring and employees have more distractions than ever preventing engagement on the job. Employees that excel at time management can provide value to an organization by remaining productive and finding ways to work on new ideas that will propel the company forward.
- Conflict Resolution: Even in the best work environments, conflicts emerge every day. That’s what happens when people work together (whether they are good collaborators or not). Valuable employees have strong conflict resolution skills, finding ways to promote teamwork no matter what situation comes up.
These are just 5 examples of valuable soft skills that can lead to increased team performance and employee retention. Notice, though, that these traits (and other intangibles like them) are often assumed to be innate. People think they’re either born as strong communicators or they’re not. They see other good critical thinkers or problem solvers and think they’re more suited for other work.
Soft skills training can get employees to change this professional development mindset. Even when an individual isn’t a natural at some soft skill, it’s possible to train those.
Once you’ve recognized the importance of soft skills, it’s time to get a professional development plan in place and start your soft skills training. Finding the right starting point can seem overwhelming, though.
The LinkedIn Learning library of professional development courses is full of valuable insights into building soft skills. These three paths can help you start your own professional.
Time Management Training: Businesses look for any opportunity to boost workforce productivity. This learning path gives you the soft skills to take responsibility for your own time, teaching you how to manage time more efficiently, create effective to-do lists, sharpen your focus, and more.
Interpersonal Skills Training: This collection of courses gets to the heart of what it means to be a great teammate and co-worker. Learn the basics of interpersonal communication, how to manage projects and their stakeholders, the keys to success in administrative roles, and more.
Public Speaking Classes: Communication is possibly the most important soft skill for employees. And while many can get by with written communication, public speaking is a widespread fear. This set of courses can help any individual overcome fear of public speaking, communicate with confidence in all settings, stay on point during presentations, and more.
Our complete library of courses can help employees learn any soft skill needed to succeed on the job. It’s time soft skills training received the same attention that hard skills always have. Browse all the courses and learning paths to see where any employee can start adding more value an organization.
Dorie ClarkHarvard Business Review Contributor; Duke University Fuqua School of Business Professor
Gemma Leigh RobertsOrganizational Psychologist; Performance Psychologist; Executive & Career Coach; Author
Dave CrenshawAuthor and leadership coach who has been featured in Time, Fast Company, and USA Today
Fred KofmanAdvisor, Leadership Development at Google