In the past, soft skills (such as communication, teamwork and emotional intelligence) have been seen as just that – soft, meaning that they are somewhat less important that hard, tangible skills like how to hard code or operate an automation system. That perception has been changing in recent years.
In LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report , they highlighted that the number one priority for developing talent is soft skills training.
Still, when budgets get tight or deadlines make us feel constrained for time, soft skills training is often one of the first things that organizations and employees leave behind. In the long-run, this is detrimental to your organization.
Here are a few reasons why taking the time to develop soft skills within your employee base is essential to your organization’s success.
1. Strengthen your bottom line.
Those of us with an Analytical preference (and I’d imagine a number of those without) will appreciate these statistics:
- According to a study  by Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Michigan, soft skills training in areas like communication and problem solving boosts productivity and retention by 12 percent, and delivers a 250 percent return on investment based on these increases.
- The Hay Group reports that managers who incorporate soft skills into their leadership approach can increase their team’s performance by as much as 30 percent .
- According to surveys cited by SHRM , miscommunication costs companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.
The bottom line: when we aren’t communicating effectively and fail to incorporate soft skills, our organizations may suffer financially.
2. Set the rules of engagement.
When you focus on developing soft skills in your organization, you are making a statement that emotional intelligence, effective communication, teamwork and professionalism are an expectation. In doing so, you begin to establish rules of engagement for your employees and standards around the way that they collaborate.
Having these expectations in turn helps your organization operate more efficiently because there are understood norms in the way everyone works together.
3. Create a positive workplace culture.
Your people are the most important part of your organization. To keep them engaged, it’s important to create a positive work culture, and soft skills are an important component of that environment.
According to TLNT.com , 80 percent of workers agree that having the opportunity to learn new skills at work makes them more interested and engaged in their job. By investing in your employees’ professional development, you are taking important steps to engage them.
Moreover, when employees learn to communicate and collaborate more effectively, the overall workplace culture improves with greater understanding and positive working relationships.
4. Prepare your workforce for the future.
As we consider the future of work, rapidly advancing technology and artificial intelligence, I invite you to consider what sorts of job skills will be in demand in the future.
According to the World Economic Forum , the top 10 skills needed by 2020 are:
- Complex problem-solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision-making
- Service orientation
- Negotiation skills
- Cognitive flexibility
What’s interesting about this list is that none of these skills are hard skills; they are all soft skills. To position your organization for success in the future, you should invest in your employees’ professional development with a particular focus on soft talents.
5. Navigate different working styles.
When I facilitate workshops within organizations, one challenge that almost always arises is how to approach different working styles and use them to positively impact teams, rather than cause friction between individuals. In fact, the average employee spends one workday per month  involved in unproductive conflict.
While differing Thinking Preferences impact this issue, what individuals usually notice (and may be challenged by) first are differing Behavioral Preferences. When individuals have disparate ways of expressing themselves, differing paces and styles for furthering their ideas and different approaches to change, it can be challenging to get the team to work together effectively.
To help your organization thrive, your staff needs to understand how to work effectively with one another, and to do that, you need soft skills. Soft skills are what allow us to understand the working preferences of others and flex our approach to navigate different styles.
As you consider your talent development needs today, I invite you to reflect on what sorts of soft skills training you’re currently offering and how you might adjust your development programs to support your organization’s overall success.
If you need ideas on how to encourage your leadership team to support this sort of training program or want to learn how to build soft skills, download our eBook  or reach out below for more information.