What are Soft Skills Training and Professional Development?
According to Investopedia, soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that describe a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills complement hard skills, which refer to a person’s technical knowledge and skills. In Sociology, the term "soft skills" refers to a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as opposed to intelligence quotient (IQ).
Soft skills training for employees focuses on developing or refining interpersonal skills. Courses on presentation, verbal communication, business writing, active listening and conflict resolution fall under Soft Skills training.
But what is the difference between a soft skill and a hard skill? Hard skills learned through formal schooling, training programs and mentorships. They are often easier to quantify with key performance indicators like correct answers in a test, turnaround times or the number of bugs detected. Examples include computer programming, writing, web development, and graphic design. Soft skills focus on attitudes, task management and the ability to work with others - these can make the workload lighter and collaboration smoother. You can still measure soft skills, albeit with some level of subjectivity, like customer or team ratings.
What are the benefits of soft skills training? By providing soft skills and professional development training, you're investing in your team members and improving your team's overall performance and productivity. The benefits of these investments will be evident in improved employee satisfaction, reduced turnover, and increased customer satisfaction.
On the other hand, Professional Development (PD) training is a consciously designed, systematic process that strengthens how staff obtain, retain and apply their knowledge, skills and attitudes. It includes introductory courses on topics outside one's department-specific expertise like Marketing, Sales, Recruitment, Negotiation and Bid Management.
Why is professional development training important? Gaining soft and professional skills help team members better understand their colleagues' perspectives, anticipate and address conflicts, and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned towards the same goals. They equip technical staff with the knowledge and skills to contribute to these areas, especially when working with other experts. They also provide new or potential leaders with the tools to successfully lead and manage their teams.
How do you start with soft skills and professional development training programs for your team?
To identify the best training courses for professional development and the most strategic and suitable soft skills training to purchase for your organisation, start with a gap analysis.
You can gather data by interviewing staff and leaders. You can also review customer feedback, often including insights to the team's strengths and weaknesses in communication, task management and problem-solving.