The rise of soft skills
In the past, employees simply needed to be obedient. But the modern business world demands strong communication, team building, networking, empathy and other interpersonal skills and character traits which are considered soft skills, to complement hard skills such as work experience and education.
Today soft skills are just as important as hard skills, if not more. In Singapore, a survey found employers are hiring candidates based on soft skills, rather than academic results. And with good reason; a lack of soft skills in employees drags down the bottom line.
Employee miscommunications cost businesses US $37 billion every year in the US and UK. Little wonder then that Singapore's government is urging students to develop soft skills, particularly abilities to work cross culturally and in teams.
Small business employees typically lack soft skills, but they can be taught. Focusing training on a specific area helps employees understand how to apply the skills in their daily work. Here are some areas to consider:
Numerous soft skills are required for developing effective business relationships. To secure business cards you need to be trustworthy, confident and a good conversationalist, besides possessing other attributes. Soft skills training focused on networking is an investment in lead generation, which can boost business. Still doubtful about the value of these skills? Consider this, the National University of Singapore believes they're important enough to introduce a training module for students to better help them get the jobs they want.
The best customer service representatives wield soft skills to win over customers. Whether you're in retail or do business with companies, soft skills training on customer service can help you build a loyal customer base and increase sales.
Abdul Muizz, a manager with Skyline Luge Sentosa, gained a broader perspective from soft skills hospitality training. He told The Straits Times: "I learnt how to be more patient and consider both the customers' and providers' points of view."
More employees are using social media at work today than ever before. To ensure effective communications and avoid mistakes, they need soft skills training so they think before posting and never speak badly about competitors. You want to avoid personal meltdowns spiralling into public relations disasters, such as the Silicon Valley CEO who threatened fruit vendors on Facebook.
The ability to plan, prioritise and organise is the trait desired most by employers. But these soft skills aren’t taught in schools; employees are expected to acquire them. If employees aren’t organised, productivity suffers. Investing in soft skills training in this area can increase efficiency.
Small businesses seeking soft skills training have many options. You can try team-building exercises or engage a business coach to provide guidance. In Singapore, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can also explore government grants for skills training.
Soft skills can sharpen your competitive edge and boost the bottom line. But to gain the most from training, you first need to identify where it would have the most impact for your business – social media, networking, planning or customer service?