Soft Skills 101 is a six-part series looking at the emergence of soft skills as an essential requirement of any job. In Part 5, we examine why companies need to upskill employees with soft skills and how they can go about providing that training.

LinkedIn’s Future of Skills 2019 Report shows Australian employees believe their employers should be doing more to upskill them, with one in three quitting their jobs due to insufficient access to learning and development opportunities.

According to the report, over half of Australian employees (53 per cent) agree the skills they need to succeed are changing rapidly, with almost two in five (39 per cent) actively feeling overwhelmed by the pace of change in their industries.

What these employees want, states the report, is more training on skills such as critical thinking and industry specific knowledge.

Employees surveyed also feel they aren’t receiving relevant training in growing soft skills such as adaptability and flexibility.

Half of Australian workers (52 per cent) think soft skills will be more important for their career.

Jason Laufer, Senior Director, Learning Solutions for LinkedIn Asia Pacific, believes there’s a disconnect between what motivates many employees to learn compared to what most employers are pursuing.

“Australian employees are more typically driven to learn for personal and professional fulfillment, however employers are focusing on career progression,” he says.

Although training for the sake of career progression has been a structure in place for several working generations, at a time when technological change is driving digital transformation in organisations across all industries, this type of reasoning is no longer relevant.

Employers needing to meet the widening skills gap must understand how their business is going to change, articulate the workforce required to deliver, then proactively consider how they can upskill their workforce accordingly.

Importantly they must engage these workers in the correct training method.

Assessing soft skills learning and development

Conducting a soft skills assessment should be one of the first steps in understanding the type of training, learning or development initiatives are required in an organisation.

The types of assessments vary, however, more and more organisations are using skills and personality assessments to identify the strengths, weaknesses and gaps within their workforce as well as aid succession planning.

According to recruitment consulting firm Hays, important assessment tools includes:

  • Psychometric testing: Assessing candidates based on the role duties and specific outcomes that need to be achieved.
  • Personality testing DISC or Myers Briggs: Assessments to determine personality or character which assists.
  • Blend of psychometric and DISC testing: Balanced approach to skills assessments.
  • Leadership assessments: Testing to illustrate the leadership style that senior candidates demonstrate.
  • Management teams: Comparing all new managers against each other to help you build an effective managerial team that brings out the best of everyone.

Professor Jürg von Känel Associate Director, IBM Research Australia, told Information Age the company assess all employees annually on their skills.

“[IBM] [looks] [at] what skills [soft and hard] have they improved and also assesses what they are lacking and should focus on next,” he says.

Traditional company offered training

Once the skills are identified, von Känel says workers at IBM are encouraged to undertake at least 40 hours of development.

IBM provides a mixed type of training to employees, with some of the training delivered through online courses.

Soft skills are still taught and experienced in traditional educational settings, with teachers.

“They can be classrooms or virtual sessions, where participants may collaborate from many countries,” says von Känel.

“Some of the soft skills are best taught in small in-person classes where the skills can be experienced in class exercises and role plays.”

IBM also dedicates learning channels that are bundles of different types of learning interventions.

“This consists of e-learning, face-to-face, videos, online, extracts, and whitepapers.

“When completed, learners are able to receive a digital credential (IBM Badge) for them to increase their digital presence in the market place,” von Känel says.

Training in a virtual world

Deloitte believes virtual reality (VR) can provide a better immersive experience that will accelerate an employee’s soft skills development.

Stacey Edmonds, Partner, Deloitte, Future of Learning, believes allowing employees to truly walk in someone else’s shoes – instead of just imagining it – can have profound organisation-wide impacts on inclusion, diversity and team cohesion.

“Perspective-taking in VR has been found to promote more pro-social behaviours and empathy, both immediately and developing over time,” she says.

“VR also provides a safe and controlled environment with which to move learners outside their comfort zone to practise critical skills such as having difficult conversations and conflict resolution.”

VR also can potentially engage users in interactive experiences and provide real-time, quantitative feedback. This will allow performances to be “effectively analysed and serve as a baseline for future development”, says Lauren Parker, Consultant, Human Capital at Deloitte.

What makes VR different from traditional methods its capability of giving an accurate understanding of an organisation’s learning and development needs.

This helps organisations to “understand current skills gaps” and provide flexibility for employees to learn and develop at their own pace.

“This is in stark contrast to other traditional training methods that typically follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach and depend upon subjective self-assessment to indicate awareness and capability,” says Parker.

According to both consultants, research has shown that such immersive training experiences can improve information “retention and performance by between 30-70 per cent compared to classroom based or e-learning”.

If your team is interested in soft skills training to suit your organisation, you can register your interest here.

Previously published:

Part 4: The value of being human in a technical world

Part 3: Soft skills will dominate all jobs by 2030

Part 2: Understanding the must-have soft skills

Part 1: Soft skills 101: The essential non-technical skills you need