Why and How to Invest in Soft Skills for your Employees

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    Soft skills are an increasingly hot topic in today’s business world.

    They’re often defined as desirable qualities in an employee that don’t stem from previously acquired knowledge. They could include people skills or social skills. Or personality and character traits. Or almost anything required in a job role, that isn’t covered by someone’s list of qualifications and work experience.

    While opinions may differ on exactly what soft skills are, few would deny the strength of demand for them within the modern workplace. Indeed, reports suggest that soft skills will be a key focus for employers in Singapore in 2019.

    But is developing your workforce’s soft skills really worth the effort? (Spoiler: it totally is.) And how can you get started?

    Why you should invest in soft skills

    Reason #1: Soft skills protect your bottom line

    Researchers have been documenting the effect of poor employee communication on organizational financial performance for decades.

    Back in 2004, a Watson Wyatt study found that organizations with more effective internal communications were likely to be better at holding on to their staff. What’s more, it associated a significant increase in the effectiveness of communications with a 29.5% increase in market value.

    Some eight years later, David Grossman (founder of communications consultancy, The Grossman Group) shared research suggesting that poor internal communication was costing UK and US businesses US$37 billion every year.

    Given this, it’s hardly surprising that by 2016 the Singaporean education system had begun to look beyond grades and take in broader life skills. And that’s an evolution that continues to this day.

    Reason #2: Soft skills help you build valuable business relationships

    Your business’s success depends on building strong relationships, whether with partners and analysts, or simply between your company’s functions and staff.

    In a networking context, soft skills like being a confident speaker and great listener can help your organization’s employees rapidly establish a rapport. And that can be the difference between failing to make any new connections, and going home with a huge pile of business cards to file.

    Reason #3: Soft skills help create happy customers

    Soft skills won’t just help your business win new customers. They’ll help you keep them too.

    The best customer service representatives use soft skills to win over customers, day in, day out from showing self-control and resolving conflicts, to being assertive and taking responsibility.

    Whether you sell to businesses or the general public, hiring and honing those skills should help you build a loyal customer base, and ultimately increase sales.

    Reason #4: Soft skills help avoid social media disasters

    Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Even Instagram. Many of us are increasingly comfortable using social media in both our personal and professional lives.

    Which is great – until one of your staff throws shade at your biggest competitor, and your business is drawn into a reputation-damaging flame war.

    When combined with a solid social media policy, soft skills training can help your entire organization understand how to avoid starting and fueling social media disputes. And that means you minimize the risk of personal comments spiraling into public relations disasters. Think the Silicon Valley CEO who used Facebook to threaten the low-income fruit vendors who had set up outside his home. Or Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ongoing battle with the SEC.

    Ready to invest in soft skills? Great. Here’s how to do it.

    How to invest in soft skills

    #1 Decide where the skills are needed most

    Soft skills are, of course, essential in customer service and sales roles.

    As HubSpot’s Allie Decker says, “customer service training on skills isn’t as much about teaching them as it is fine-tuning and refining skills that employees already have.”

    But today, employers are also seeking out soft skills for IT and technical positions. In such roles, planning projects and communicating with other parts of the business can be essential to success.

    So, think about your business’s current challenges and priorities…

    • Are you hitting your customer service metrics?
    • Is your business development team successfully nurturing leads?
    • How successfully are your sales teams converting those leads?
    • Is information flowing between your sales and marketing teams?
    • Is your IT team communicating with the rest of the business?
    • How effectively are you managing your social media presence?

    …and decide where to invest first.

    #2 Explore your options: team-building exercises

    One easy way to improve soft skills? Get your team to practice the skills on each other.

    Team-building exercises test and develop a range of soft skills, from listening to leading.

    Escape rooms, cooking classes, archery tag, candle-making – there are many different activities available. Sure, some may seem a little silly. But the cooperation, enthusiasm, and sense of belonging the right activity can create can deliver serious business benefits.

    And if top brass take part, all the better – it shows that you’re human and accessible.

    #3 Explore your options: soft skills training

    If you’re looking for more-targeted training, you have plenty of options here as well. A great starting point is the SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore website.

    This joint initiative by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Manpower offers advice on training programs, funding opportunities, and more.

    The British Council in Singapore also offers workshops focused on building soft skills, including customer service and interpersonal communication. Check them out here.

    Get started today

    Investing in soft skills can improve your bottom line. It can help you build your brand. And it can help you maintain a reputation for brilliant customer service.

    Even better, there are plenty of simple ways to get started, whether it’s a formal training course or a team cookery class.

    Go on – your company (and your bottom line) will love you for it.