We’ve all met that guy—the one who always says the wrong thing, makes an off-color joke or just doesn’t take the hint—the lone wolf who doesn’t fare well on teams. Or maybe you are that guy?
Time for a reality check: anyone with poor human interaction intuition needs help, and needs it now. Well-documented research has proven that we can substantially better our “emotional intelligence,” otherwise known as “soft skills,” through training. Well-polished soft skills are crucial: the difference between a sale or no sale. That’s why soft skills training trumps any other—product, technical, process or otherwise—because if there’s no sale, there’s no business.
Can employees really improve soft skills through training? Yes. But unfortunately, most companies focus on product/technical skills instead. And, it doesn’t come easy to many. It’s a concerted effort to change ingrained responses around intangibles, such as communication, problem solving, conflict resolution and collaboration, and learn to adapt and think critically, read nuances of a complex situation and surf an emotionally volatile exchange. This requires making time and space for lots of practice—an ideal match for elearning.
The reality is many employees struggle with their soft skills. They might have good intentions, but fall short. In this particular type of training, a “safe” individual elearning experience is optimal. If the learner flubs, he can easily go back and try again. No one has to know! In group settings in person, on the other hand, employees tend to overthink responses under peer pressure. Not surprisingly, staff tends to be more honest and genuine in a solo elearning environment.
Elearning is the best tool to leverage for soft skills development because it simulates real-world examples and the pace is realistic, focusing on just one issue at a time: for example, leadership. Another benefit: training is measurable. Managers can set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to evaluate how the initiative is going, set benchmarks, targets and timelines. Then they can discuss results and decide on next steps.
Another advantage is the ability to build scenario-based training. As in, if you get a right answer, you can move to the next; if you get the answer wrong, you have to repeat it until you get it right. The process mimics real life, leading the trainee along the Q&A path. This is especially helpful for soft skills learners because their whole crux in the first place is imagining they’re saying the right thing, when, in fact, they’re not.
To use elearning effectively for soft skills training, you’ll want to:
– Use a mistakes-driven approach – To lessen fear of failure, help people ID exactly where they went wrong and remedy it, and simulate real-world consequences.
– Use scenarios as the basis – So people can see what they’ve learned and then practice. Make sure you use realistic, real-world situations common in your workplace. Even better, make them applicable to that person’s particular job and tasks.
– Make it fun – Create engaging, interactive sessions that you yourself would enjoy doing. Allow the learner to lead and make decisions. That can only increase buy-in.
Here’s why the whole issue is crucial to your company’s success: employees with well-developed soft skills handle stressful conflicts with finesse, see the bigger picture, play well with others and work productively on teams. In short, they can problem-solve, strategize and innovate—and elevate your business to the next level.
If you’re a waiter who doesn’t really like people, it might be time for a career change. But if you’re a brilliant chef who just needs to iron out kitchen communication, help is just around the corner.