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Bitesize No. 7 – Turning Soft Skills into Hard Results


Some aspects of this Bitesize series may have been difficult to swallow for trainers who spend much of their time trying to develop soft skills.

It is sometimes hard to accept that all skills, soft or hard, are meant to produce real results at the end of the day.

Also, it is often the softer, more creative side of training and development that many trainers enjoy.

Attaching hard pounds-sterling figures to this work makes it feel cold and clinical, but there is no reason why it should.

Take outdoor management development as an example.

How is this sort of development supposed to add value? Will it build team cohesion or is it more about self-reliance?

Or maybe a project team will just work better having had this sort of experience together away from the workface?

If you ask the participants what they gained from the experience (level 1 validation) you could possibly receive some glowing tributes to the programme.

Unfortunately, though, all of this is expressed in soft, intangible terms. None of this would actually tell you whether this outdoor programme added any value or not.

Of course, the programme designer might argue that you cannot always measure the benefits of development in hard cash terms that a business partner would demand.

Well, this is never likely to happen because a business partner would not have sanctioned such a development programme in the first place.

Let us go back to the drawing board.

A project manager in an IT services business comes to the business partner in training and asks for some help with improving the team spirit in her team.

She adds that in her last job, with her previous employer, she went on an outdoor management programme that she felt was very beneficial for all concerned. So she asks if they could organise something very similar for her present team.

The business partner says they only support training investment in activities that are designed to add value.

The project manager is adamant that this team-building event will add value - she just knows that it will be of great benefit.

Her enthusiasm though is not a sound enough basis for the business partner to work from.

They ask four simple questions to establish whether it is likely to add value and these are not hypothetical questions: -
1. Will the training result in providing customers with more services or support?
2. Will it reduce our operating costs?
3. Will it help us obtain higher prices for our services or more revenue?
4. Will it improve the quality of customer service we provide?

If the project manager says no to all of these there is a serious problem.

Either she has to re-think the potential benefits of the programme in added value terms or she has to articulate what problems lie beneath the symptom of poor team spirit.

A business partner will not sanction any programme where the business sponsor and trainees are not clearly committed to adding value or are unsure how it will add value.

Paul is happy to take questions and comments and can be contacted at:mailto:[email protected]

Earlier articles in this series can be found at:
The Bitesize Business Partners Page


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