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Chieu Cao



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Three ways to develop the soft skills of your existing employees


Bringing soft skills into your business doesn't necessarily require hiring new talent. Promoting the development of these competencies among your existing workforce is a far more practical and cost-efficient approach.

Having the right staff onboard in your organisation is not an easy task but it is certainly a crucial one in order to get any business running properly. What’s more, previous work environments didn’t require the kind of adaptability, flexibility and broad business knowledge that is needed today.

Tech and society have evolved to a point where a person with great cultural alignment to an organisation’s values and goals is more likely to be successful at their job than one who merely has the right skills, experiences and qualifications to do it.

In other words, in a very short period of time, soft skills such as collaboration and adaptability, which have always been notoriously difficult to measure in interviews, have become one of the most important assets to a business. Choosing the right candidate for a job position has, as a result, admittedly become a nightmare.

But... what about developing the right soft skills amongst our existing employee base? Surely that can be easier to achieve, right? And if that’s the case, what is it that we should be doing to promote this soft skills development? What benefits would it bring to our organisation?

1. Realise the link between values, mission and soft skills

According to Investopedia, soft skills are ‘character traits and interpersonal skills that characterise a person's relationships with other people’. It’s apparent that an intrinsic link exists between them and our company values.

What’s more, if we want our company values to be embedded in our organisation’s DNA,  these ‘soft skills’, which include things such as the capacity to communicate, collaborate and innovate with others,  have a crucial role to play.

Failures serve as learnings that allow employees to develop soft skills such as a growth mindset and resilience.

Therefore, something as simple as having company values that reflect and mirror the soft skills you want to see develop in your organisation is key to encourage their development – especially if you reward those you see living and breathing them each day as an extra incentive!

At Perkbox, for example, one of our company values is  ‘try it, test, it get done’. This reflects the soft skills of ‘determination’ and ‘work ethic’ that we want our employees to be driven by whilst at work. We award one employee a quarter as the Perkboxer that best portrays this value, as an extra incentive to illustrate the importance of it.

2. Encourage a culture where mistakes aren’t seen as failure

By encouraging a culture of psychological safety where mistakes aren’t seen as failure, these failures serve as learnings that allow employees to develop soft skills such as a growth mindset and resilience.

All of a sudden you are creating business culture that supports your employees’ personal growth and their ability to think positively about things. This is very powerful.

A great example of a company doing this well is Supercell, a business that feels so comfortable with failure, that after one has occurred and has been analysed, the company pops a bottle of champagne to celebrate what they have learned.

Similarly, at Google, employees are publicly applauded by their co-workers and supervisors for their failures too, and often even rewarded with time off to contemplate what their next project will be.

Within reason, failure shouldn’t be seen as negative and the best way of showcasing this to your employees is leading by example. Share your own failures with them, describe how you felt when they happened and, most importantly, what you learnt from them afterwards. Make them see how failure is just another essential part of human development and one that’s inevitable and healthy to experience too.

3. Empower your managers and decentralise decision making

This point is simple. The only way to really improve the decision-making and leadership skills of your managers is by empowering them to do exactly that, let them make their own decision.

Of course there are some issues that can only be resolved by the most senior members of the business but for those where you’re not needed, step away.

This can sometimes be easier said than done because at first instance, employees are often scared of letting go from your guidance too. When struggling, my advice would be to coach your employees on decision-making skills.

The highest performing companies are those who value well refined soft skills and realise the benefits they can bring to the organisation.

Sometimes all employees need is just that extra push to take chances and develop their own soft skills alone.

In this respect, gaming company Valve has gone as far as deciding to totally remove hierarchy from its decision-making processes, eliminating job titles and therefore encouraging employees to work on or initiate any project they choose to.

Yet, as Forbes has warned, this might work for small and medium-sized companies but it’s unlikely to be the way forward for larger businesses.

Remember, the highest performing companies are those who value well refined soft skills and realise the benefits they can bring to the organisation. Whilst measuring them can add to recruitment challenges, because soft skills are so hard to measure on paper, encouraging and promoting them on an ongoing basis in your organisation amongst your existing employee base is an easier task and can bring about many benefits.

So what’s stopping you?


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Chieu Cao


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