Before we dive into the briny deep of soft skills training, let’s actually clarify for everyone what these really are. I see, all too frequently, the absolutely wrong answers given when users online ask what soft skills are. Answers such as “working with software”, “adaptive skills” or even things as utterly silly as pertaining to soft materials like gelatin or pudding.
By ‘soft skills’ I am referring the skills needed to be successful in our jobs, but rather than the direct duties needed to perform specific tasks – how to operate a specific software, being a good writer of content, knowing specific computer languages, and the like – ‘soft skills’ refer more to character traits which help us overcome barriers, be socially appropriate and engaging, and more. Some examples of soft skills include communication, patience, self-control, attentiveness and listening skills, memory, perseverance, empathy with others, creativity, and more.
Soft skills are basically emotional and people skills. The flair for motivating others, communicating in a friendly manner, and just overall being a real team player. Leadership roles especially need a good set of soft skills like these both to befriend and to gain the confidence of those working beneath them, as well as strong ability to motivate and inspire them to excel at their jobs.
They’re also absolutely crucial for any job where you have to work face to face with customers, be it B2B or B2C. So, given this is a pretty important skillset, we should look at some soft skills training tips that can help cement these capacities.
#1 – Gamification
This is one of the cases where gamification is absolutely a powerful tool in training. Soft skills are not something that can be as clinically or technically handled as other skills might be. Therefore, setting up social training games – role playing, word games and the like – are not only engaging and a way to build realistic experience, but they’re a very good way to introduce soft skills situations, and make the concept real.
We’ve come a long way with gamification, of it being a theoretical new idea to becoming a standard practice. It has its benefits all around, but here, it’s a godsend.
#2 – Following
Assigning followers with professionals who are versed in the soft skills in question is another good way to train. Have them follow them through a day of their work, and watch them balance congeniality, confidence and people relations with their technical work.
Seeing these skills plied in the real world, with no pretense, is going to be one of the better teaching tools for this, along with the gamification mentioned above. Don’t make these mutually exclusive either.
#3 – Delegation
Basically, easing people into the requirements of soft skills by gradually increasing their position of responsibility or interaction with customers is a good way to build experience without disaster.
This also relieves others in heavy positions by letting them offload some of their “face time” to trainees so they can get their work done.
Be careful with this one though, as the layers of delegation here could break down the relationship between those in established positions and those who work under them. So, this is not something to be used quite as heavily as the other points on this list, though if no bones are made about the fact that these proxy positions are for trainees to sharpen soft skills, it may be less of an issue. Just, choose wisely how heavily to implement this particular tactic.
Further gamification information is available at gamification examples page.
Soft skills training is a little more difficult than other forms of training because the science behind the skills in question are … well … soft sciences themselves. But, training in these skills are possible if you just think outside the proverbial box.