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Meeting the Challenges of Soft Skills Training

Meeting the challenges of soft skill training
Source: Corbis Images

Technical skills no longer dominate the workplace. Today, customer service, negotiation, interpersonal communication, and other “soft skills” are at least as important. In many cases, they’re more important than the “hard” or technical skills. But many employees don’t know where to start when it comes to learning them. It’s not like there are education courses teaching this stuff, right? Not so fast.

Motivate Them To Learn
Some companies provide online computer training videos and they go a long way to simplify the process of learning new soft skills. Online soft skills courses can also be much less expensive than live training. Plus, they can be more effective since employees can move at their own pace, review materials at their leisure, and break up lessons according to their unique learning style.

Online tutorials also give instant feedback about progress through integrated learning management systems which replaces live group training with one-to-one training.

Helping Them By Example
Soft skills are a little abstract. For example, how do you show objective examples of conflict resolution? The ideas and communication principles you teach only translate to reality when you practice them. So, help employees understand these ideas through examples. You might set up scenarios to teach employees about conflict resolution. Show how body language affects the confrontation. Show how voice inflection, choice of words, vocal cadence, and other subtitles affect how a person might respond to a confrontation.

You can also use definitions, suggested steps, and even illustrations or video to demonstrate how to use these new soft skills. Keep in mind that you’re trying to alter ingrained behaviors, so many examples are going to be necessary. Repetition is key, and the employee will only really “get it” when he sees a flood of examples.

Encourage Practice
Practice makes perfect. Encouraging employees to practice what they learn compels them to internalize the examples you give to them and adopt them into their own behavior. It’s one thing to watch an example. It’s another thing to actually do it yourself.

Keep your content and message clear, simple, and concise. Build on the learner’s prior knowledge, and address any and all misconceptions as they arise. Control the employees’ course flow, and purposefully introduce “friction” or “road bumps” to foul them up.

Make it difficult for them at certain stages so they have to think instead of plowing through information they think they know. This provides a challenge, and stimulates growth by requiring employees to think about what they’re doing before they do it.

How To Assess Effectiveness
Rather than developing a repetitive pattern of “example-practice-assess,” try to mix things up a bit to cut off the employees’ expectations. This keeps them on their toes and motivated. It also keeps them engaged. They can’t shut off their minds and just coast through the material. Test the employees’ knowledge periodically and unpredictably throughout the training. Design feedback so that it stresses tradeoffs rather than forcing “right” and “wrong” alternatives.

Sometimes, in real-world scenarios, it’s not always clear what the right or wrong answer is. Cost-benefit analysis allows employees to think in terms of profit and loss, which will ultimately help them and the company in the long-term.

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Author Profile: Debra Foley has helped develop numerous training sessions over the years. With a background in education before entering the business world, she has a unique perspective in effective employee training. Visit the http://www.kalliance.com/ for more training ideas.

WRITTEN BY
Nathan Jeffery
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