4 Important Soft Skills Your Employees Need in the Digital Age
The rise of artificial intelligence is changing the workforce. It has left many workers worried about the prospect of their jobs becoming automated. While the fear is warranted, there is one skill area that AI and robots lack – something that is still highly valued in the workplace: interpersonal skills.
What makes interpersonal skills so important? According to Emotional Intelligence at Work, competency research in over 200 companies and organizations worldwide found that emotional intelligence was twice as important as technical and cognitive ability in distinguishing top performers from average ones. In senior leadership positions, it was four times as important.
Soft skills have become the new currency in the digital age as technology changes the way we work.
A study from MIT Sloan found that soft skills training – even in a factory setting – can improve work productivity in an organization. If soft skills are so important, why are so many organizations overlooking developing them?
Let’s look at four important soft skills and explore how you can develop them in your employees.
Adaptability was listed as one of the 5 most in-demand soft skills in 2019 according to LinkedIn. Industries, technologies, and organizations are changing at breakneck speed, so this demand makes a lot of sense. At the core of adaptability is being flexible and embracing change. Employees who can’t go with the flow are likely to get left behind.
Fear of failure is a key reason people don’t embrace change. They feel comfortable where they are and become experts in what they know. So when change occurs, it can leave them feeling frustrated, anxious, and even angry. Therefore, the most important thing you can do to develop adaptability in your employees is to cultivate a culture that allows room for mistakes.
From Google to Intuit, some of the most innovative companies celebrate failure because it encourages employees to get out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes. Leaving room for failure give employees the confidence to try something new. It also helps them adapt to an ever-changing business environment which positively positions them for the future.
Communication often tops the list of most desired soft skills, yet the skill gap for this competency is still pretty large. The gap is even larger with millennials. If you can’t rely on the next generation of workers to have this skill down, what can you do?
Assign mentors to younger workers so they can learn interpersonal communication from someone who does it well. The best way to learn how to communicate is to practice. Face-to-face interaction is vital to developing important communication skills.
Another way to develop communication would be to encourage the use of discussion boards and forums in your LMS. Although it’s in a digital environment, the platform provides a place for people to interact and communicate in a professional setting. It’s also important for entry-level employees who may lack experience writing formally.
Problems are an inevitable part of life and work is no exception. Every organization has a need for strong problem solvers. Recruiters polled by the Financial Times ranked complex problem solving as one of the five most important skills MBA graduates need and one of the most difficult to find.
One way you can help learners develop problem-solving skills is to offer game-based learning. It’s difficult to become good at problem-solving if you’re never faced with problems. Challenging games give employees the opportunity to test their decision-making skills in a safe, risk-free environment.
Games don’t just allow employees to practice solving a problem – they also allow you to better track how they come up with a solution. Through games, you can gain insight into the journey learners take to solve a problem, not just the end results. Then you can address the specific areas where they are lacking in the decision-making process.
We all get 24 hours in a day, but some workers will have a harder time managing their hours than others. Before you work towards a solution, it’s important to talk to your employees and understand why they aren’t managing their time well. Are they overworked or are they inefficient? Understanding the difference will impact how you approach a solution.
Employees who lack time management skills typically don’t know how to prioritize their work.
If time management is an issue, set up weekly meetings with your team and ask them about their workload. That way you can understand what the root of the issue is. If they field requests from more than one source, it may be hard for them to tell the difference between who’s yelling loudest and what’s most important. What criteria should they use to discern priority?
Help set criteria for your team around what’s important and what’s time-sensitive. Work with them to schedule tasks based on priority, so they are focusing their time in the right places. Once you’ve helped them to understand what’s important, set deadlines to prevent procrastination and provide accountability so the work gets done.
It’s no longer enough to just focus training on hard skills and technical skills.
Soft skills are like muscles, they only get stronger when you work on them. Include soft skills as a part of employees' personal goals and professional development. Track employee progress and provide feedback and recognition for improvements made. If you’re disciplined about flexing those soft skills, the results will come.
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