Why ‘Soft Skills’ Can Be Hard Work

Soft skills are an increasing focus for many companies. These skills include communication, leadership, management, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, among others. Soft skills are necessary in most jobs, particularly as you move up the ladder into supervising others and managing complex projects as a team leader or manager.

Most people possess some soft skills naturally or have developed them over time through experience, but many have weaknesses in some areas of soft skills and need help to develop them. For many, soft skills development can be hard work that takes considerable time and effort to develop.

Soft Skills are Deeply Ingrained

Once you are an adult who has had training for your current career, many of the behaviors that encompass soft skills have become ingrained in your personality and way of interacting in the workplace. Some of those behaviors will help your career performance or advancement, while others may be counterproductive and need to be changed to avoid being obstacles to your career.

The good news is that according to research, soft skills can be learned, or in the case of unwanted behaviors, unlearned. Behavioral scientists have managed to break the usual soft skills down into teachable pieces that can be reinforced in a classroom format through role play and practice. With an investment of time and effort, the vast majority of people can build their soft skills in ways that will advance their careers and help them be more effective at work.

Skills Assessments

Employers are increasingly using skills assessments to supplement interviews and resumes when hiring, and some of these assessments measure soft skills. Whether with a formal assessment or feedback from an instructor, assessing your soft skills is the first step to knowing how to build them.

Skills assessments can help you maximize your skill-building because you will know how to best determine where to spend your time and energy so you will not be trying to build skills you already have, but will be targeting your weak areas that need the most help.

Teaching Soft Skills

One of the best ways to teach soft skills is to use examples and situations that employees are likely to face. Seeing these situations play out in commonly ineffective ways and then compared with more effective ones that make use of soft skills will show the benefits of having good soft skills in the workplace as well as showing what effective soft skills look like in practical, hands-on ways.

Role-play is extremely effective in practicing soft skills and gives students a way to try out different behaviors without actually having to put workplace relationships and circumstances to the test right away. By role-playing under the close supervision of the instructor, students can learn what works and what doesn’t work as well before they get into a workplace situation where those soft skills are needed (or at least before the next time).

For information on training that teaches soft skills contact Christa Sterling at 860-832-2277 or csterling@ccsu.edu.

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