When soft skills stop being soft

For a long while I’ve been contemplating that old urban myth about the Learning and Development field that we only help with the soft skills in organisations.

Let’s have a look at some of those soft skills.

Example 1.

An employee raises a grievance about Diversity and Dignity at Work. A colleague openly made fun of this person’s ethnicity and demeaned them in front of a group of their peers. An investigation took place. Questions had to be asked. Support had to be given. Details had to be scrutinised. Interviews had to be completed. Reports had to be written. Decisions had to be made. Lives were affected. The organisation learned from the event and put in place measures to mitigate it happening again.

Example 2.

The organisation is carrying out work in developing a new product. They are trying to bring groups together who don’t normally work together. They bring in a facilitator to work with them. They do some analysis of the situation. They scope what work needs to be done. They agree objectives and aims. They work through a series of models and theories designed to help them think in different ways. They collaborate and develop a strong idea which needs to be presented to the board. They undergo presentation skills training and craft their message carefully. They get feedback from the board about moving forward with the product.

Example 3.

The organisation builds its client base by regularly pitching for new work. They have a team of 4 people who are good at what they do and are good at bringing in new work. They win about 30% of the pitches they go for. They go through presentation skills training. The L&D professional observes them and gives them initial feedback. They learn how to deliver a clear message. They see how the others present more closely and notice improvements they can make. They work as a team to develop their skills and develop the pitch for the next presentation. They win the work and receive feedback it’s one of the best presentations the client has experienced.

Example 4.

An employee is experiencing a period of personal difficulty and their work is starting to suffer. The manager notices and starts a conversation to find out how the person is. The manager delivers some feedback about a dip in performance. The employee confesses to having personal difficulties. The manager proposes they do a period of coaching to help the employee work through their problems, and observe their work performance. They set clear goals. They define the number of sessions. They agree what the outcome needs to be. They meet and the manager coaches the employee with care and openness. The employee finds a way to cope with their personal difficulty and not let their performance suffer as greatly at work.

Now, about those soft skills.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

3 thoughts on “When soft skills stop being soft”

  1. Somewhere along the way we have created this terrible title “soft skills”. For most its really hard.
    I like the blog, its about telling a different story, and perhaps we need to get better at helping people to understand the impact of addressing these issues, or perhaps more importantly the impact of not!

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