The Hard Evidence for Building Soft Skills
Soft skill development empowers learners with abilities that yield benefits in productivity, retention and profitability for years to come. But only 25% of companies report satisfaction with their soft skills training. To examine why something that has such a positive impact seems to be so hard to develop, the research arm of Workforce magazine partnered with Bellevue University to do a deep dive into the real world of soft skills.
As reported in Making the Business Case for Soft Skills, nearly 600 respondents were surveyed on the state of training, measurement and evaluation of soft skills at their organizations. Notably, these L&D professionals were asked how they make the business case for training soft skills to their bosses, senior leaders or executive boards. Given that 63% of the organizations in this study reported a substantial or critical gap in soft skills, the pressure to remedy this gap is considerable.
Key findings from the study include:
1. The Soft Skills Gap is Widening.
Employee soft skill gaps are bad and getting worse. L&D leaders are responding by prioritizing soft skills training programs. "Only 22 percent of organizations say the gap is shrinking, while 47.3 percent say it’s staying the same and 30.8 percent say it’s widening."
2. It's Hard to Assess Soft Skills.
Most reports regarding soft skills acumen are anecdotal. It is crucial to prioritize the soft skills training to clarify measurable soft skills contributions to ROI. The study found the majority of respondents saw the greatest needs in the areas of communication, decision-making, and collaboration. And most reported that face-to-face, in-person training was the most likely to yield recognizable changes in behavior.
3. Successful Soft Skills Training Requires Leadership Buy-in and Investment.
"Support for soft skills begins at the top. Without leadership buy-in and budgetary dedication, soft skills training won’t produce the desired outcomes." The survey data indicated that organizations identified as leaders in this area are much more likely to use soft skills training in a variety of ways. These include formal classroom training, coaching, onboarding of new hires, as well as other less formal methodologies. These soft skills leaders have several different approaches which lead to better measurement outcomes and a better business case for teaching, investing in and applying soft skills.
As one survey participant commented:
“Soft skills need an integrated approach. Nothing works in isolation, and each needs careful design. The right sort of on-the-job learning and peer reflections on a shared experience is necessary.”
Our face-to-face experiential approach focuses on changing behavior by incorporating real-work situations. Give us a call at 503.206.8369 to find out more about our soft skills offerings.