Making A Case for Soft Skills Training

Picture a spinning, open umbrella. Each section covers the user with something they need to protect them from the elements; social skills, soft skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and manners, all held together with a handle we'll call professionalism.  When one of the wire spokes breaks or becomes separated from the material holding it together -- well you're no longer protected and start to fray. 

Which of those spokes or skills are you willing to forego in an employee or yourself? Likely none.

The emphasis in HR training, professional development, and professional presence coaching is turning from a focus on professional etiquette to the bigger, more complete picture of soft skills training. A wind-ranging list of qualities and characteristics needed to move throughout the day in as flawless a manner as possible.

Soft Skills.jpg

Employers desire the whole package and not people skills which appear in bits and parts or are at times non-existent. The great challenge is that when labor is at a premium, and those with the proper hard skill training to do the technical aspects of the job are scarce or in high demand, the focus on soft skills falls by the wayside, and the company culture is imbalanced.

To be clear, soft skills training should not be the domain of HR, and ideally should be instilled in future job candidates at various intervals of development, from youth through college and graduate school.

Etiquette dinners are all the rage and can be fun and useful team building activities, however, I'd prefer a colleague who stands out throughout the day and makes an excellent, all-around team member, to one who treats colleagues poorly, yet knows the difference between a red and white wine glass and to tear their dinner roll in small pieces rather than cutting it with a knife.

By making etiquette the endgame, you omit critical skills that make the whole, polished professional. Skills like timeliness, teamwork, assertiveness, communications, and self-awareness. The next time you consider booking an etiquette training for your team, think about the personnel issues that come to the fore throughout the year and how those issues may be circumvented by presenting targeted training.

What skills are perhaps deficient in your recent graduates, seasoned career people, experienced upper management and those who came of age in other countries but who now must assimilate to North American norms and expectations? Many an executive has lost a major client due to boorish behavior that had been noted yet went unaddressed for a lengthy period of time.

Making a case for incorporating soft skills training means after the etiquette luncheon when you return to your office you'll witness the attendees behaving in a manner that creates a strong sense of cohesiveness and individual self-confidence. That plus more "Thank you's" and acknowledgments will be a pretty good deal.