What are soft skills? Finding one specific soft skills definition can be challenging because many people define soft skills differently. These skills are essential for workers to have or learn because they help them function within the organization. These aren’t necessarily skills that directly relate to their KPIs or OKRs. Instead, they are skills that make them easy to work with, better to talk to, and longer-lasting.
Teaching soft skills can be hard but not impossible.
What Are Soft Skills?
So what is a soft skill? There are many different types of soft skills, but they all relate to how you work. Soft skills can include:
- Time management
- Listening skills
- Communication skills
- People skills
- Intrapersonal skills
There are too many soft skills examples to list, but these almost all have to do with things that some people are just good at, and others aren’t all that good at. Many hiring managers will put a list of soft skills on a job description because they are looking for things that make people better leaders, workers, and fits for company culture. Every company will have a different soft skills definition, but they are considered essential in so many places.
Can You Teach Soft Skills?
Are you able to teach soft skills? The short answer is yes, but you will need to put in a lot of work. You don’t only have to teach skills once; you need to model those skills and reinforce them.
Let’s look at some examples of soft skills:
Leadership is a complicated skill to teach, but it’s not impossible. Developing leadership skills takes time and consistent effort, especially in growing and changing organizations. Teaching leadership skills and investing in your employees can help to make your workplace better and even provide succession options when you lose employees to retirement or attrition.
Leadership often starts by teaching shorter courses and then putting those actions into practice with small teams and then working toward larger teams.
Time management is a massive concern for many people. Why? Employees who can manage their time are better able to provide timelines and complete work to the best of their abilities. Those who can’t manage time will be sloppy and make silly mistakes.
To teach time management, you may want to give people tools to manage their time, but it is something that people will need to learn by using things like SMART goals, time blocking, calendars, and tracking apps.
Workplaces are changing and shifting all the time. This change isn’t just because of things like remote and hybrid work but based on what we need from people. There’s a need to be adaptable in your work with more automation. People need to be able to mold and flex with the way their job is performed.
This one is hard to teach! However, modeling adaptability and providing chances to be adaptable can help.
Another hard one for many people to learn is compromise. How can people compromise when they have such strong feelings? This is another soft skill that starts at the top of your company: show your C-Suite compromising whenever they can.
Teaching compromise is hard. You can start by showing multimedia videos or clips from television shows of compromise and then go into real-life situations. Use open-ended prompts to help people develop different solutions to the problem and share some of your favorites.
Like compromise, we have negotiation as another great soft skill to have. This means negotiating with people in sales or business meetings and negotiating with other team members on projects and priorities. However, in negotiations, you have to ensure that one party doesn’t “lose” or “give up” everything.
You can teach negotiation skills the same way you do compromise skills, but with the idea that they want to be the ones not to give up anything.
Not all conflict resolution is going to be compromised or negotiated. Sometimes, someone is going to be wrong. With the rise of hybrid and remote work, people may say or do things in text or Slack messages that they wouldn’t say in real life. This can lead to fights and disagreements.
Conflict resolution is an essential skill for HR professionals, but it can be a great soft skill for managers, leaders, and employees.
Critical thinking is one of those skills that most people think they have, but they don’t when it all comes down to it. Critical thinking means that your workers can look at a problem or a situation and develop the best solution. They can also see when things might not be wholly true, or the truth is twisted.
Motivation is a skill that many workers don’t have, especially when working remotely or independently. Trying to find workers with the ability to motivate themselves is challenging. You want to look for high achievers to get advice and tips that you can share with the rest of your team.
Can someone work on a team? You can have the best employees in the world, but if they can’t work together, they will be ineffective. It is hard to teach teamwork to people who have always worked alone, but it isn’t impossible.
You may want to start by encouraging your employees to bond with each other in social events or team-building activities. This is easier to do when you are in person, but we have many suggestions for bonding in a remote environment.
How hard does your teamwork, even if they are slow? How likely are they to keep working until they find a solution to a problem? Work ethic is a tough skill to teach your employees, but it is a soft skill worth teaching if you can.
One way to foster a better work ethic is to run challenges where people are accountable to each other. For example, maybe you want to run a learning course that takes a few hours to complete. Employee engagement is a struggle for HR leaders who need to run longer courses, so you need to entice employees to complete it. Maybe you say that the first department to finish that course with a particular score on quizzes will get a half-day. This forces employees to get it done and do it well. Department goals often make people work harder.
Of course, this isn’t possible in every environment or all that often, but it is something to think about.
Do your employees have listening skills? Can they listen to something and understand what they need to do? Listening skills aren’t always as critical in today’s world because we have email, recorded meetings, and more. However, we still have conversations with each other that employees need to be present for, process, and respond in kind.
How can you teach your employees listening skills? Consider doing audio-heavy learning for a few modules (but not all of them, not everyone is an auditory learner). Don’t make these modules the most important training you run.
Are your employees positive? You can’t always teach someone to have a positive outlook, but you can help them have a more positive attitude in the workplace. This is imperative because someone who is a “Debby Downer” can bring down your workplace’s culture and productivity.
How can you teach positivity? This is a skill you need to model – if you are negative, your employees will likely follow suit.
Can you teach someone problem-solving skills? This is another hard one to teach, but you can also model this soft skill. Another thing you can do is give people the tools they need to solve their problems. Teach them where to go when they have problems, how to solve them, and how to document what they did to help someone else.
If your employee does something wrong, do they own up to it? Having someone who will not only own up to their mistakes but take accountability and make it better is essential. This is one of the most difficult soft skills to teach, but your culture will improve when you teach it and foster it within your workforce.
How can you teach accountability to your employees? Start by not punishing people when they make small mistakes. Hold performance reviews where you can talk about what went wrong and how to fix it. If they make the same mistake again, you can have a more extensive conversation, enact a PIP, or something more drastic.
If something happens, do you have an employee you can count on? Dependability is a skill that isn’t hard to teach; you need to motivate people to do it. Timeliness, completion, and helping others are all skills that go into dependability. You need to build up those soft skills to teach this one thoroughly.
Dependability will often develop over time, but you need to keep reinforcing it.
Can your employee talk to other people? Are they able to read moods or read the tone of the room? This is hard for employees, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum, but it isn’t impossible. As HR, you need to meet people where they are and then slowly develop those skills. Often, these skills will come with comfort and tenure in an organization. Still, we are hiring employees more often, so it can be slightly more difficult to nurture employees to be comfortable with their coworkers.
Attention To Detail
Do you have employees who notice the small things? If you don’t, you will constantly lose profits and productivity due to minor errors that add up over time. Teach your employees to pay attention to details by running lessons on grammar, spelling, editing, and checking your work.
YOU HAVE TO MODEL THIS AS WELL. It’s tricky, especially when we are moving so quickly, but you need to pay attention to detail from your first interaction with potential employees.
Does someone know themselves? Are they able to deal with pressure healthily? There are many things that someone needs to know about themselves before they can be an effective leader or an employee.
It’s up to you to encourage them to have a work-life balance and introduce them to the resources available to them as your employee.
Organization is one soft skill that people think doesn’t matter as long as an employee gets the job done, but a team player must be organized. If someone asks you for something, you need to be able to get it to them.
This is another soft skill that you can model on your own, but you should also provide people with the tools they need to be organized.
Finally, and probably the most important soft skill an employee can have, is communication. Are they able to communicate with another person? Someone they work with? Someone they work above? Someone they work below? An outside vendor? Can they communicate verbally, via email, and over video? These are all crucial skills that can be taught and will get better with experience.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: What’s More Important?
What is more critical in your talent – soft skills or hard skills? That’s a difficult question because it depends on your industry. Is it easier to teach someone how to do something physical like operate a machine, or is it harder to teach someone how to feel empathy?
It is harder to teach soft skills in most cases, and more things can go wrong. However, in construction, for example, hard skills are important. Same with healthcare – those hard skills can result in life or death choices.
If you have to weigh hard skills vs. soft skills for a job, consider using 360-reviews throughout the hiring process to learn more about what your workforce needs.
Start Teaching Soft Skills With Trakstar’s Platform
You can’t possibly teach everything from this soft skills list. What you can do, however, is look through and prioritize which ones will help your organization the most. Then, build out learning materials to help teach and reinforce those skills. With Trakstar Learn, you can build evergreen content that you can use when onboarding new talent, reinforcing skills in struggling employees, assigning content for PIPs, and more.