Are you focusing enough on developing your team’s soft skills?
Research has proven that effective social skills are equally as, if not more important than, even the most advanced workplace technologies and processes. Managers who include a variety of soft talents into their leadership approach can heighten their team’s performance by as much as 30%. Clearly, organisations lacking in soft skills can end up struggling to improve productivity.
Why do organisations need employees with soft skills?
The answer is simple – even the best of technology cannot perform better than the prowess of an agile human mind and personality. This is well demonstrated by the continued failure of artificial intelligence to pass the Turing test. To pass the Turing test, an artificial intelligence has to a hold a five-minute conversation with a human, and that human has to believe they are talking to another human – not a robot. Even techno-optimists – such as the Google Futurist Ray Kurzweil – believe it’s unlikely the test will be passed before 2030.
Secondly, the need to develop soft skills is highlighted by another interesting revelation. Yves Morieux, Senior Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group, claims that organisations worldwide are facing a global productivity decline. This is despite the advantages of great technological advancement we have today. According to Morieux, this decline is because organisations today are more aligned towards technological and quantitative metrics, and do not focus enough on the nature of human interactions at the workplace.
#1 Helps catalyze innovation
When it comes to imagining creative solutions and pathbreaking innovation, the human mind is the only resource. Needless to say, innovation is crucial to beat cut-throat competition, and organizations must devise ingenious business strategies if they want to stay ahead of their competitors. The best way to push employees to become more innovative is to invest time and resources to help them develop the required soft skills. The skills needed to catalyse innovation include better communication, confidence to share ideas, adaptability to the situation, and the willingness to learn.
#2 Aids in effective problem-solving
Bruce Tulgan, author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, lucidly explains, “It’s a cliché that people are hired for hard skills and fired for soft skills. But without [prioritising soft skills], companies can encounter more internal conflicts, have customer service suffer and see good people leave.” This is re-enforces the important role that soft skills play in maintaining stability, transparency, and positive energy in an organisation.
#3 Optimizes the benefits of using technology
According to a study by Adecco, about 44% of executives claimed that the lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap they saw in the U.S. workforce. This adds credence to the argument that the global economy is facing a decline in productivity despite technological advancement. The point here is clear – technology alone cannot achieve much if it isn’t complemented by the intelligence and innovation that a human mind offers. Focusing on developing your employees’ soft skills will help you reap greater returns from technological investments.
How to boost soft skills at your organisation
Check for soft skills when hiring
To start with, organisations should consider reforming the criteria used during the hiring process. According to Edward Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, the best way to do this is to apply a more scientific approach to evaluating present and future employees. He elaborates; “If your advantage is going to be out-thinking competitors and dealing with customers, you’ve got to have soft skills.” He also explains why it is crucial for employers to check whether a prospective employee has the right set of soft skills for the particular organisation, “Are you going to hire someone with a high narcissist score when you want humility? Analytics and testing are important to effectively hire and develop talent.”
Invest in developing employees’ social skills
Hiring the right candidate is only the beginning. As an employer, you should continually develop your team’s communication and other social skills. However, there is no single solution for all organisations – each one has to devise a strategy based on its own strengths and weaknesses. The most effective way to do this would be to first evaluate where the employees’ social skills are strong, and where they are lacking. This can be done by regularly using employee surveys or interviews, which can help highlight the issues that the team is facing. The latent benefit of using such a method is that answering these surveys encourages better communication and transparency – which is a good impetus to increase the use of soft skills at an organisation.
Technology is best utilised by employees with high levels of soft skills. With advanced technology now easily accessible to all, you should invest in the development of soft skills at your organisation if you want to get an edge over your competition. The first step to helping your employees improve their soft skills is to use a people analytics or pulse survey platform, which will identify which areas – such as communication, teamwork, or creativity – you are currently weak in.