When we post a job description, it’s common for us to highlight the technical skills needed. But during the hiring process, it becomes clear that, while technical skills help candidates meet the basic requirements of a job, soft skills are what actually help them get the role. That’s what makes soft skills training crucial to create better leadership candidates.
Soft skills (or what we like to call human-centered capabilities) are often defined as interpersonal skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and other abilities of this nature. Companies often invest in technical training, but studies show that investing in soft skills training might have an even bigger impact on the success of a company.
Let’s take a look at three reasons why your company should invest in human-centered skills training for its leaders:
Soft skills training increases workplace productivity
Bad working relationships between management and employees cost the economy $360 billion each year from lost productivity. (Online MBA)
Soft skills training as part of your human-centered leadership development plan can help you increase your own workplace’s productivity and employee retention by empowering employees in their work life.
Soft skills training prepares employees for leadership positions
Regardless of someone’s role or title, every person can benefit from the development of soft skills. That said, soft skills become increasingly important as employees move into higher positions.
A report by iCIMS Hiring Insights which surveyed 400 HR and recruiting professionals found that 58% of recruiting professionals believe soft skills are even more important for leadership positions than entry-level positions.
From this same survey, 94% of HR professionals also believe that workers with strong soft skills have a better chance of being promoted at a company than an employee with more experience but weaker soft skills.
Skills such as communication, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and active listening are crucial to developing employees who are managing people at your company. In fact, 50% of employees leave their job because of a bad manager. Investing in soft skills training for your rising leaders can not only have a huge effect on their success in managerial positions but also on the job satisfaction of employees who work under them.
Automation is taking over a lot of industries
In response to the increasing automation in many industries, 95% of people believe they need new skills to stay relevant in their jobs.
According to Accenture Strategy’s Harnessing Revolution: Creating the Future Workforce report, 86% of American workers would invest their free time to learn new skills to stay relevant. Top skills articulated to stay relevant included the ability to change and learn, and judgment and decision-making skills. The report details a need for employers to really invest in “re-skilling” their employees. This includes investing in soft skills training.
Arming employees with these soft skills—skills that cannot necessarily be mastered by robots or computers—is crucial to empowering employees with the skills they need to be successful.
The Top 6 Soft Skills Every Leader Needs
Leaders and managers should develop an extensive number of soft or human-centered skills that are beneficial, but these six are essential:
- Awareness of unconscious bias
- Giving and receiving feedback
Empathy is the ability to understand where someone else is coming from or why they feel or act the way that they do.
Empathy as a leader is essential to connect with the team and better understand how to support them in their own career growth.
Individuals can practice empathy by asking thoughtful questions, or focusing on the shared emotions one might experience if they were in the other person’s shoes.
Awareness of Unconscious Bias
Whether or not we want to admit it, we all have unconscious biases. Unconscious biases are the underlying opinions you might have about a group of people based on stereotypes.
These biases can range from grouping people together based on your beliefs about their age group, gender, race, whether you have shared interests, where they’re from, and more.
The right soft skills training will allow someone to recognize their own unconscious biases and face them head-on. By first acknowledging bias, we can then begin to combat it.
The soft skill or human-centered capability that is most likely to differentiate a leader from a manager is the ability to communicate effectively and with empathy.
Great communication means being able to adapt communication and leadership style to fit each team member and have the ability to motivate the team in the ways that resonate best with them.
There are a number of different communication and leadership styles that are useful in any given situation. Unfortunately, not many leadership development programs teach these skills in a way that’s applicable.
One of the most common tasks a leader will be faced with is making decisions.
While not all decisions will be life-changing or difficult, a great leader should have the ability to make informed decisions quickly and with an understanding of the greater impact on both the business and team.
While it may seem odd to think that employees have to learn how to make decisions as a leader, having a thoughtful and focused approach can make the process smoother over time.
As a manager, time and attention will always be in high demand. There will likely be days when you just can’t do it all — and the same is true for the team.
It will be important that leaders can properly prioritize projects, not only for themselves but for their team. With the right soft skills training, leaders can find ways to systemize this process and make smart decisions that alleviate pressure. Luckily, employees can start learning this skill whether they’re in a leadership position or not.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
For many people—whether they’re an entry-level employee, first-time manager, or seasoned executive—giving and receiving feedback is hard to master.
Many of us like to be positive, well-liked, and don’t want to “stir the pot.” Unfortunately, this mindset can be a disservice to everyone involved. Feedback is one of the best ways we can grow and improve.
By developing the right human-centered skills, employees can change their mindset and approach feedback in a more systematic way. Over time this process will get easier and easier.