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Employee Development Beyond Hard-Skill Training: Why Soft Skills Matter?

When it comes to employee development, most companies focus on hard skills. 

And the reason is simple, hard-skill development seems to bring more value to the company. However, soft skills also bring just as much and even more value than hard-skill training, especially in roles where communication is crucial.

Here’s why companies should include soft skill training in their organization’s development plan.

Hard vs. Soft Skills

Hard skills are any job-specific skills that people can get through education, training, or experience. For example, proficiency in a foreign language (or a programming language), learning how to do basic accounting, cooking a meal, etc.

On the flip side, soft skills are more intrinsic and usually generated from a person’s upbringing (social and cultural background)—for example, communication skills, leadership competency, critical thinking, etc. By nature, soft skills are harder to measure and quantify and in many cases, and more difficult to train.

Most employers focus on developing their employees’ hard skills because they’re the ones that transform the workforce into revenue; bring value and impact to the business. 

However, if you take a closer look, soft skills are just as critical. So instead of looking at soft skills only in the hiring process, consider making them a central focus of the employee development plan.

Communication Skills: The Core of Workplace Collaboration & Performance

When creating an employee development plan, make sure to have a training program for communication skills. Even if an employee is a superb performer, they may fail at their roles, if their communication skills are lacking.

Communication is one of the critical predictors of whether someone is a good fit for the company culture. Great communicators can say their opinions clearly. They can easily find ways to work with each other. They also understand and support the company’s mission and vision.

As more companies move towards the remote work model, communication has become increasingly crucial for workplace competency. Being able to communicate well in written form through short messages/emails and presenting ideas well during video meetings are now essential for any position.

Creative Thinking v.s. AI

In 2022, the number of things that computers and humans can do is impressive. 

From chatbots to virtual assistants, it’s obvious that these AI tools are great at essential communication and customer support. 

However, there is one thing that they can’t do well: creative thinking. According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is the number three skill we’ll need to survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution, right after complex problem solving and critical thinking.

Therefore, supporting the development of the employee’s creative thinking is crucial.

The company can always offer them training or challenge them to think outside the box on their projects. These are some of the best ways to future-proof both the company and the employee’s career map.

Employees with Excellent Soft Skills are More Likely to Stay

When hiring new employees, the HR team looks for excellent soft skills for multiple reasons. First, a person with better communication, outstanding creativity, and other soft skills will naturally be a better performer and team player.

Second, employees that have excellent soft skills are likely to stick with the company for a long time as they can resolve conflicts and develop critical thinking.

By investing in employee development programs that focus on soft skills, employers are investing in the company’s future. In fact, it’s only logical that employees with a stronger sense of empathy are less likely to leave the team because of a slight altercation or facing minor conflict in the workplace.

Soft Skills Build a Healthier Work Environment

One of the best arguments for an employee development plan is the increased focus on empathy. Empathy is one of the most important soft skills for employees in all kinds of roles, industries, and seniority levels.

It allows workers to build a more positive and supportive work environment where people openly communicate when they have issues instead of making self-assumptions.

There are different ways to introduce empathy in the employee development plan. It all depends on the structure of the company and the goals you want to achieve.

For example, the tech giant Zendesk introduced something called “empathy circles” during the pandemic to help their employees understand each other better and feel more relaxed to talking about difficult topics.

From discussing racism in America to combating violence toward the Asian community, these gatherings gave everyone in the company a place to voice their opinions safely.

Wrapping Up

Hard skills may ensure a quicker career progression and a cleaner to-do list, but soft skills will always have a place in the workplace, no matter how much our work culture changes.


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— Written by the
Raisa Yogiaman

Raisa Yogiaman is a content marketer at Zavvy - an employee enablement platform that combines employee experience with smart workflow automation. Her passion for HR and marketing can be found on Zavvy's blogs.

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