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Soft skills training: Definition and how to improve them

By Katie LoFaso

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  1. What are soft skills?
  2. How do soft skills compare to hard skills?
  3. Why do soft skills matter?
  4. How to train your soft skills in the workplace
  5. Learn how to improve your skills without leaving your job

Soft skills training: Definition and how to improve them

As artificial intelligence (AI) reshapes industries, many employers have placed a renewed importance on soft skills. According to a 2023 study(opens new window), business leaders believe communication and integrity are the top skills needed to succeed in the AI age – not technical competencies.

This article explores the meaning of soft skills and their relevance in the modern workplace. We also suggest soft skills training methods to strengthen these essential abilities in your current role.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the interpersonal abilities that allow professionals to work with others effectively. Soft skills encompass attitudes, behaviors, and personal traits that professionals use to complete tasks and interact with others. These abilities help employees form positive relationships and collaborate effectively with people from across an organization.

People often view soft skills as insignificant or less valuable than technical skill sets. But that’s not the case. According to a LinkedIn survey(opens new window), 92% of talent professionals believe soft skills are equally as important as hard skills.

As business professor Peter Cardon(opens new window) observes, “In the AI age, employers expect to increasingly value ‘soft skills’ that enhance human interactions and foster rich, people-centered company cultures.”

While the interpersonal nature of soft skills makes them highly desirable, it can also make them challenging to master. Improving soft skills requires a strong commitment to personal development and a willingness to seek feedback from others. Soft skills training can help you engage in self-reflection and gain the practical experience needed to strengthen these abilities.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023(opens new window) emphasizes the growing importance of soft skills training. The report found that eight of the top ten most essential skills for all industries in 2023 belong to the soft skills category.

According to the World Economic Forum, the most valuable soft skills include:

  • Analytical thinking - The ability to assess problems logically, evaluate the facts, and propose workable solutions.
  • Creative thinking - The process of examining situations from multiple perspectives and creating innovations.
  • Agility and flexibility - The ability to adapt to new challenges, environments, and tools. These skills help employees perform effectively and remain competitive in fast-changing industries.
  • Motivation - The intrinsic drive to complete tasks, overcome obstacles, and achieve goals.
  • Curiosity and lifelong learning - The desire to gain knowledge and explore novel ideas, perspectives, and tools.

How do soft skills compare to hard skills?

Hard skills refer to job-specific technical competencies and expertise. Employees use these abilities to complete tasks within their roles. For example, Business Analysts need to know how to use data visualization tools to represent trends.

Hard and soft skills have different pathways of development. You can gain hard skills through formal education or on-the-job training. By contrast, soft skill training gradually occurs as you interact with others and learn to navigate professional environments.

These abilities also have different lifespans. According to the Harvard Business Review(opens new window), the half-life of technical skills ranges from 2.5 to 5 years. That means employees must continuously learn new technologies and hard skills to stay relevant. By contrast, interpersonal skills like communication and collaboration never become obsolete.

Most jobs require a combination of hard and soft skills training. For instance, here’s a breakdown of the typical skills needed for Software Engineers.

Why do soft skills matter?

Professionals in all industries need strong soft skills. Here are a few benefits of strengthening these abilities:

  • Contributing to a positive work environment. Soft skills enable you to form meaningful relationships with colleagues and foster an inclusive culture. For example, you can use emotional intelligence and active listening skills to build rapport with coworkers and offer support.
  • Enhanced productivity. Strong project and time management skills will help you complete tasks more efficiently.
  • Improved customer service. Active listening, empathy, and other soft skills allow you to communicate effectively with clients and understand their pain points. You can use these abilities to develop stronger relationships and meet customer expectations.
  • More efficient collaboration. Many jobs require professionals to work with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Strong collaboration and communication skills will allow you to exchange ideas and reach shared goals effectively.
  • New career opportunities. Soft skills tend to transfer across careers and industries. For example, Marketing Specialists and Project Managers both need to communicate effectively. Improving soft skills can help you transition to new roles and achieve career success.

How to train your soft skills in the workplace

There are many ways to upskill on the job or in your spare time. Here are three soft skills training examples to explore.

Employer-sponsored soft skills training programs

Many companies offer employee soft skills training opportunities. These programs typically involve online learning sessions or in-person activities that help workers upskill or reskill.

For example, your employer could organize a leadership workshop where employees learn conflict management, delegation, and other people skills. You could also attend a company-wide session on negotiation and teamwork skills. These soft skills development opportunities may involve discussing real life scenarios, engaging in role plays, and getting individual practice.

Employer-sponsored professional development opportunities can help you prepare for more advanced roles in your company. They also improve employee retention and enable you to network with colleagues from other departments.

Soft skills courses

Many professional associations and educational websites offer soft skills courses. These online learning opportunities provide convenient and affordable soft skills training.

LinkedIn Learning(opens new window) offers many types of soft skills training. You can take courses on communication, problem solving, public speaking, and other important soft skills. After you complete a soft skills course, you may earn a certificate or badge.

Professional organizations also provide soft skills training resources. For instance, the IEEE Learning Network(opens new window) offers courses on communication skills, personal skills, and presentation skills. These soft skills training classes are designed for tech professionals.

Complete an apprenticeship

Multiverse’s upskilling programs allow professionals to develop both technical and soft skills while working for their current employers. Apprentices can complete modules in Advanced Analytics, Strategic Analytics, and other in-demand fields while receiving the benefits of both social and applied learning.

Multiverse apprentices complete comprehensive training modules designed by industry experts. These courses teach essential technical and soft skills. For example, Advanced Analytics apprentices strengthen their communication skills by learning to tell stories with statistics. Strategic Analytics apprentices learn to use data to inform decision making and resolve conflicts.

Apprentices also participate in soft skills training in the workplace. They use their new knowledge to complete hands-on projects under the supervision of their managers. These practical learning experiences are invaluable for teaching soft skills like collaboration, project management, and public speaking.

Learn how to improve your skills without leaving your job

Technological advancements have led to a renewed emphasis on soft skills training. These interpersonal abilities allow you to have meaningful interactions with others and make a positive impact in the workplace. Pursuing durable soft skills can also help you adapt to the rapidly changing job market and transition to new roles – some of which may not exist yet.

Multiverse’s upskiller programs provide in-depth technical and soft skills training. Apprentices get paid to develop in-demand hard skills, such as coding and data analysis. They also strengthen a broad range of soft skills, from active listening to time management. Together, these abilities will help you become a more versatile professional and future-proof your career.

Take the next step on your upskilling journey by completing our short application(opens new window).

Katie LoFaso

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By Team Multiverse

28 December 2023

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