Interpersonal skills. Self-management. Negotiation. Customer Service. These are skills that most employers still believe are inherent in the individual and can’t be trained. However, new research shows that these “soft skills” can be trained. More than that, they can be measured.
In the 1980s, management consultants started to challenge the idea that people with high IQs are the most likely to succeed in business. What they found was that individuals who use what is now called the “Soft S’s of style, skills, staff, and shared goals” will typically outperform those who only rely on technical ability or knowledge.
Newer research and popular books by Daniel Goleman and Daniel Pink build off of earlier research. Today, these authors argue that employees must master skills needed to influence and connect with others. They also need to maintain relationships and manage and control themselves.
Make Sure Your Investment Pays Off
Companies like K Alliance, an e-learning provider, have spent a lot of money developing software programs and training modules that maximize a company’s return on investment in employee training. But many companies still reject the idea that soft skills can be learned. Engineers, nurses, and even MBAs come out of school but lack the ability to build teams, negotiate with colleagues, and lead projects.
Because soft skills are never taught at elementary or even college-level, most people fumble through life and learn soft skills on the job – either formally or informally. Some government agencies, non-profits, and even corporations, however, are being turned onto the idea that soft skills is something worth investing in.
According to the American Society of Training and Development’s State of the Industry report in 2011, U.S. employers spent roughly $171.5 billion on employee training and development. About 27.67 percent of that was geared toward teaching soft skills like interpersonal skills, management and supervisory skills, and customer service.
If you decide to take up the challenge of educating and training your employees in soft skills, keep a few things in mind. First, set challenging, but attainable goals. If your goals are too challenging, it will demoralize your staff. Too easy and they won’t be motivated to learn. Don’t take a “if you build it, the learner will come” approach. You have to be deeply involved and engaged with your employees throughout the training.
Automated training tends not to work as well as one-to-one or even group training.
How To Track ROI
While a completely automated training system is probably not the best way to educate your employees, it can be an excellent tool for measuring progress and ROI. E-learning companies use Learning Management Systems to track employee progress through the training. For example, pre-tests can establish a baseline for a skill. Then, follow up with a post-exam to see how far the employee has come.
Measure key metrics for performance in the employee’s job before and after training. Peg this to the test scores of the employee. From there, you can make a positive correlation between the education and the training he received.
Debra Foley has worked in business for over a decade. She frequently writes for business blogs expounding on her experiences in employee management.