When reading through the resume of a potential candidate, hiring managers will look for relevant experience and a clear demonstration of role-specific competencies, such as proficiency in spreadsheet software or long-form copywriting skills. In addition to this, many hiring managers would agree that a resume would also preferably illustrate any relevant soft skills that a potential candidate possesses. In fact, 53% of employers consider soft skills ‘essential’ when making a hiring decision. So, what are soft skills and why have they become essential for working professionals hoping to achieve success and longevity in their career? In this blog, we’ll answer this and look at how organisations can use e-learning to help employees develop soft skills.
What are soft skills?
To understand the meaning of the term ‘soft skills’, let’s first conversely explore the meaning of the term ‘hard skills’. Hard skills refer to clearly defined technical skills and abilities that are typically role or industry-specific, such as computer programming. Hard skills are taught through training or educational courses and these competencies can be easily identified, measured, and tested.
On the other hand, soft skills refer to the general behavioural traits, characteristics and mindset of a person. Soft skills aren’t as easily defined as hard skills, as they’re more to do with who someone is as a person, rather than their technical abilities and knowledge. For example, a manager hiring a new assistant may look for a candidate who demonstrates advanced skills in typing speed (a hard skill), along with excellent time management (a soft skill).
Soft skills can be found in someone’s innate personality, but they can also be learnt through training or life experiences. Once learnt they are highly transferable and can be applied across any industry and any profession. Soft skills can help people navigate interpersonal relationships in the workplace, allowing them to become fully embedded in a team and eventually prove themselves worthy of progressing in their careers.
What are some examples of soft skills?
- Critical thinking
- Active listening
- Conflict resolution
- Decision making
- Strategic thinking
- Organisational skills
Why are soft skills essential?
LinkedIn's 2019 Global Talent Trends report found that 89% of recruiters blamed a lack of soft skills for a new hire not working out. Despite demonstrating a clear proficiency in essential role-specific hard skills, if an employee doesn’t possess soft skills such as self-motivation and teamwork, they’re unlikely to achieve long-term success in their role. For the best results, a workforce should be a well-balanced combination of hard and soft skills.
When it comes to hiring a new candidate, soft skills can be the determining factor that set potential hires apart from one another. The characteristics and personality traits of a new hire can serve as an early indication of how an employee will fit within a team and determine the cohesiveness of a workforce.
Soft skills are also essential for succession planning and looking to the future. Where many employees within the same role or department may possess the same or similar technical abilities and experience, employers can identify strong leadership candidates by looking for soft skills such as delegation, communication, and organisational skills.
Can soft skills be taught?
As soft skills are directly related to personality traits and human characteristics, they are typically developed through life experiences or picked up within a work environment. However, they can also be taught through training and upskilling programmes.
Soft skills training has become a key focus for many organisations over the past few years, particularly with a recent rise in remote working. Many young employees joining the working world for the first time are doing so remotely; as a result, many have missed out on essential soft skills development that would typically be carried out in a physical setting through social learning, face-to-face communication, and active listening in an office environment. For these young workers or for employees who perhaps have little interaction with fellow colleagues due to the nature of their role, soft skills training provides everyone with equal opportunities to acquire and develop essential skills.
How to teach soft skills through e-learning
One of the most effective ways to deliver soft skills training to a workforce with varying proficiency levels is to use e-learning software. Much like e-learning platforms such as a learning management system (LMS) can be used to deliver role-specific skills training, soft skills training programmes can easily be distributed and managed using the same software.
The first step in effective soft skills training through e-learning is to carry out a training needs assessment - identify skills gaps at an individual or team/department level by gathering insights from team leaders or managers. Alternatively, e-learning assessments are an effective and quantifiable way to highlight skills gaps in a data-driven way. E-learning software allows organisations to take full advantage of the flexibility and variety afforded by new technology, as an assessment can be designed to test specific soft skills using varied techniques. For example, time management skills can be tested through a timed activity.
Once employees have been assessed and evaluated, employers are able to identify subject matter experts (SMEs) who demonstrate strong soft skills and factor this into any e-learning initiatives. SMEs can be given opportunities to share their skills by developing e-learning content via an LMS or learning experience platform (LXP). With this technology, employees can engage in social soft skills learning even in a virtual learning environment (VLE).
Admins and L&D teams can create or acquire e-learning courses and programmes designed to teach soft skills to those who have demonstrated a lack of expertise. Additionally, e-learning software can facilitate soft skills training initiatives via online workshops, seminars or online group work activities. When employees have access to a library of readily available soft skills training courses and content, they can easily develop relevant skills autonomously. This is particularly useful for employees who are looking to progress into a leadership role; rather than learning ‘on the job’, they can begin to develop these skills prior to moving up in their career.
E-learning tools also allow organisations to introduce interactive elements to training content. This is particularly beneficial for soft skills training as it allows learners to engage in practical training initiatives in an online environment. For example, scenario-based lessons take real-life situations and place them in a virtual teaching environment. These lessons require learners to work their way through a problem by making decisions or answering questions, their choices can then determine the content they see next and will drive the overall outcome of the scenario. With this type of interactive content, employees can test and develop their critical thinking skills, analytical skills and problem-solving skills – key soft skills that are deemed essential for many organisations.
Deliver powerful upskilling programmes with a Hubken solution
Hopefully by now you’ll have an answer to the question ‘What are soft skills?’, but you may be looking to approach the next steps towards ensuring your employees possess them, along with any relevant hard skills. If so, our powerful e-learning platforms provide organisations like yours with the functionality, flexibility and scalability to deliver effective skills training to a workforce with diverse training needs. Visit our product page to learn more or book a demo with one of our e-learning experts to see first-hand how you can deliver powerful effective soft skills training programmes with our award-winning platforms.
Book a free demo to discover how our platforms can help you deliver powerful soft skills training.
Book a demo with one of our e-learning experts and learn first-hand how a Hubken LMS can help you deliver effective training programmes.