Executive Summary:Both professional athletes and businessprofessionals will agree; how a team operates asa unit is often more important than the individualtalent levels of the team members.If the only determining factors for success werehard skills and qualifications, then assembling agroup of employees would be easy.Managers wouldn’t have to consider their staffmembers’ personalities, attitudes, or their abilityto collaborate with one another when puttinga team together. However, coworkers don’talways communicate effectively with each otheror perform to the best of their abilities.And this is where soft skills come into play!These professional soft skills, likecommunication and collaboration, are difficultto measure. Yet having a strong set of soft skillscan help any employee achieve career success– reaching business goals, and enjoying theprocess along the way. Since employees startwith different abilities, businesses can offer softskills training resources that can improve howemployees approach their jobs and work witheach other.In this guide, we’ll explain everything there is toknow about soft skills including:What soft skills areHow they differ from hard skillsWhat businesses can do to promote soft skillsHow businesses benefit from implementing effective soft skills trainingLet’s get started!2

What are Soft Skills?“Soft skills are sets of abilities thatreflect how well a person gets alongwith others around them and howwell they’re able to identify andaddress problems.”Simple enough, right?In fact, soft skills are difficult to define, measure,and organize because, as their name suggests,they’re not hard or tangible and many arerelated to each other.Take a look at the list below and see if you canthink of a way to measure these commonlydesired soft skills: AccountabilityActive ityCrisis ManagementCritical ThinkingCustomer ServiceDecision MakingEmotional IntelligenceFeedbackReflect on your own skillsusing the list below.What are your strongest andweakest soft skills? Goal SettingLeadershipManagerial nProblem SolvingProject ManagementStress ManagementTime ManagementUnconscious Bias3

While the list above serves as a good overview,there is no definitive list of soft skills, and softskills tend to overlap with each other. But theone constant at the heart of soft skills trainingis communication.It’s easy to take for granted that professionalsunderstand how to communicate with eachother effectively. But if you’ve ever zoned outduring a coworker’s 90-minute PowerPointpresentation or misinterpreted the tone of anemail, then you know this isn’t the case.Solid communication involves more than justresponding to messages or giving presentations.It calls for active listening, high levels ofcomprehension, and reading social cues andbody language. Soft skills highlight thedifference between listening to what someonehas to say, as opposed to merely hearing themspeak; the difference between making a brief,well thought out statement and launching into arambling monologue.Professionals use soft skills every day most of the time without consciously thinkingabout them.Check out a few examples below:When an employee puts their phone away sothat they can focus on what their coworker issaying, they’re using active listening.When someone owns their mistake, they aredemonstrating accountability.When you make your “To-Do” list each day, youare planning and prioritizing.“These skills don’t always come naturally but they can be taught.No one is completely devoid of soft skills and no one is perfectly adept atusing soft skills either. Everyone has room to improve.”4

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills“Where hard skills end, soft skillsbegin.”In order to achieve success in any venture, aprofessional has to possess both soft and hardskills. Hard skills are traits that can be measuredand dissected easily because they operate ona binary scale. Either someone can writeJavascript code or they can’t; either they canbalance an account properly or they can’t. Thesehard skills help people get their foot in the doorbecause they let employers know a person hasthe required abilities to perform a job on a baselevel.In fact, studies indicate that soft skills accountfor roughly 85% of a person’s success over thecourse of their career. And employers rightlyvalue employees with soft skills, 74% of hiringmanagers rate a candidate’s listening skillsabove all other abilities when they begin theinterview process.85%of successes in a person’s career areattributed to their soft skills74%of hiring managers rate listening skillsas the top priority for interviewsSome may believe that hard skills are the only “teachable” skills, but this just isn’t true. It is possibleto train and hone soft skills, and professionals can take courses on leadership just as they would forcomputer programming.Leadership, like any other soft skill, is not a genetic trait or a birthright, but some people are bornleaders. You can see it on the playground with children at recess. For those people who are notnatural leaders, the ability can be improved through training, hard work and focus.“Everyone from Warren Bennis to Vince Lombardiagrees on this note: leaders are made, not born.”5

Soft Skills Training Best PracticesIt’s true that certain individuals may have a propensity to excel at activities like diffusing conflict orpublic speaking. Yet, even if you’re terrified of public speaking now, as many of us are, you canbecome a better public speaker through soft skills training and practice. Plus, people with strongsoft skills can bolster them further through training.The problem is that companies don’t always have the tools to facilitate that kind of growth. A fewcommon problems business leaders encounter when implementing soft skills training include:Lack of relevant educational contentLimited access to capable instructorsFailure to access soft skills needsTop-heavy educational investmentInsufficient time to implement trainingNo training reinforcement6

Since soft skills relate to both personal growthand business progress, they’re essential to acompany’s success on a granular and macrolevel.Optimum workplace productivity depends oneveryone at an office possessing useful softskills and complementing each otheraccordingly.Think about the composition of anysuccessful team for reference. A speedyshortstop has talents that a hard-slugging firstbasemen lacks – and vice-versa. Or to moveaway from sports, Captain Kirk is emotional andcourageous, while Mr. Spock is calculating andmeasured.However, their differences aren’t liabilities,they’re advantages because they work togetherwell; they have chemistry.Good chemistry is the result of soft skills likeempathy, active listening, and collaboration.To improve office productivity, you can improveyour employee’s soft skills with training!Whether you have an existing soft skills trainingprogram you want to improve, or you’re ready tobring a new focus on soft skills at your company,these steps can work to boost your team’s softskills:Hire Motivated EmployeesIn your hiring process, look for potentialcandidates who display a willingness to learn.Since it’s very difficult to teach someone a skillthey don’t want to learn, you can get a headstartby simply hiring candidates who already have agood attitude and who naturally take to trainingsessions.And you won’t be alone in this effort! During thehiring process at Google, the number oneattribute they look for is “learning ability”because it overlaps with the other soft skillsthey want a new hire to have. Even our VicePresident of Operations, Kathy Irish, says she“hires for attitude and aptitude.”Find Compelling Learning MaterialDo any of the presenters in your training videosfeature shoulder pads reminiscent of theoriginal “Dynasty” TV show from the 80’s? Whatdoes outdated content say to your learners?While effective learning material is typicallydiverse in order to reach different types oflearners, diverse learning material isn’t alwayscompelling.7

When you’re evaluating learning material, try to find a balance of diverse and compelling lessons bylooking for the following:Thoughtful visuals andcreative graphicsConversational instructorswho are relatable to thelearnersConsistent quality of eachcourse, student materials,and examsFresh and updated content toeach soft skill training topicYou want to be sure your learners aren’t turned off or uninspired by the lack of current content!Include a Wide Range of Relevant TopicsDiverse, rich training content is an asset for anygrowing business. The more relevant content abusiness can offer its team members, the moreopportunities they have to grow and learn.For example, leadership training could includeteaching each of the DISC personalities,succession planning, and how to handlemistakes.Additionally, there can be two different sides tothe same topic. Managers need to apply softskills in a different manner than employees.There are differences when working withMillennials vs. members of Generation Z andtraining can address those differences.Assess Training NeedsSoft skills tend to be lumped together, but thereality is that they can refer to very differentabilities. An employee may have certainwell-developed traits like the ability andwillingness to collaborate, but they may belacking in others like organization and timemanagement.“It’s important for businesses todetermine which soft skills theywant their team members toprioritize – and to figure out howbest to maximize their trainingefforts.”8

For example, a business can assess a need formore efficient project management by reviewingthe number of initiatives that launched on timeand on budget. For the initiatives that were lateor over budget, the team members associatedwith the project may need training onassertiveness to drive a timeline or training onnegotiating to secure better pricing!Businesses may also determine theiremployees’ needs and strengths through formalassessments in the training area.Formal assessments, unlike personalobservations or interviews, are objective, andthey can provide concrete, measurable datathat managers can reference over time.The nature of the business and its long-termgoals, along with the needs of each individualemployee, should influence soft skills trainingmethods and topics. Not all employees willneed the same soft skill training depending ontheir natural abilities and past experience.Create a Learning CultureDid you know you already have a learningculture at your company? Whether you realize itor not, it’s there!What’s the difference? In a training culture,performance problems are addressed throughmandatory training. Management dictates whatyou can take and when you can take it. In alearning culture, employees are more involvedin self-driven learning that will positivelyimpact business outcomes and personalproductivity. They don’t view knowledge aspower, but instead, encourage employees toseek out learning opportunities anytime theywant to.A learning culture is a set of organizationalvalues, processes, and practices centeredaround education and learning. A positivelearning culture is one that encouragesemployees, and the organization as a whole,to continuously learn and add new skills.Training CultureLearning Culture Mandatory trainingis used to addressperformance problems Training is available atany time and encouragedby management Management dictates timingVS Employees dictate timing9

So how do you build a positive learning culture? Inundating team members with tons of contentisn’t (on its own) going to lead to a better learning culture. Rather, managers can help foster a betterlearning environment by:Prioritizing it and making it a part of their long-term plansGetting support from managementEncouraging and explaining the benefits of self-directed learningOffering employees the chance to view content outside of the officeBeing consistent in their approachKeep in mind that each learning culture will differ based on the needs, personalities, and goals ofboth the company and its employees. For instance, some businesses have very regimented idealsand principles that they want their employees to embrace, and their learning culture will reflect that.Meanwhile, others encourage a more free-form method for employee learning, and, as a result, thelearning culture will be quite different (though not better or worse).The benefits of building a successful culture are numerous, but a few include boosted employeemorale, reduced turnover rate, and improved workplace atmosphere.A successful learning culture canboost employee morale,reduce turnover rate, & improvethe workplace environment.10

Reinforce the TrainingQuiz time!Do you know the capital of New Hampshire?How about the first element on theperiodic table? Or who invented the cotton gin?It’s likely that even if you don’t know the answersto these questions now, you did at one time.(By the way, they are: Concord, hydrogen, andEli Whitney.)That’s because schools reinforce lessonsthrough homework and assignments. In thesame way, effective soft skills trainingreinforces the lessons introduced duringlessons and lectures.Follow-up emails, quizzes, and recap videosall act to refresh employees and keep importantinformation top of mind, well after trainingsessions have concluded.Checking in with an email, aquiz, or a recap video aftertraining concludes can helpkeep important informationtop of mind.11

Further Soft Skills TrainingConsiderationsSetting up a functioning soft skills trainingprogram is complex if you’re going the DIYroute, building a program from scratch.Thankfully the process can be made mucheasier by partnering with an eLearning companywho has soft skills training programs ready toroll out.No matter which approach you plan on taking,there are a few further considerations managersshould be aware of before they start making bigdecisions in regard to their training tactics.Adult Learning TheoryOne big question business leaders looking tointroduce soft skills training must askthemselves is: how do they plan to expose theirteam to educational material?“Put simply, adults do not learn thesame way that children do, but a lotof educational content is written ordesigned as if they did.”Adult learning theory provides guidelines forcompanies looking to boost soft skillsdevelopment within their organization. Itstipulates that because adults learndifferently from children, the learning processmust be tailored to their specifications.Adult learners have different backgrounds andexperiences, and L&D leaders need to accountfor factors like these when implementing softskills training.Tailor your corporate training programs to takeadvantage of qualities adult learners have —like their eagerness to learn relevant material,their need to connect with experience, and theirmotivation to improve themselves.12

Changing BehaviorDeveloping soft skills is about changingbehavior. The problem here for businesses isthat human behavior is nuanced.Getting team members to communicate witheach other in a more productive way isn’ta simple matter of incentivizing thatcommunication, or alternatively, punishingfailure to do so. You can’t put an employee in“time out” for not communicating with theircoworkers.Rather, managers can leverage blendedlearning to promote changes in behavior overa period of time. Blended learning combinesdigital and online learning with face-to-faceinstructor-led classes. This enables learners tohave some control over their learning path, andgives them the ability to move ahead at theirown pace.To really change behavior, employees canwatch a series of videos on their own prior to theclass, and then discuss the content and roleplaysituations that apply to their position during theinstructor-led training.Working through a problem or situation you’recurrently facing in a roleplay scenario canactually help you determine how to handle thesituation at hand.Videos can also be used as trainingreinforcement after the class to support thetransfer of knowledge from short-term memoryto long-term memory and change behavior.Use blended learning, combining digital andonline learning with face-to-face classesDiscuss the content and use roleplay scenariosthat apply to their position after trainingOffer videos after training so employees can jogtheir memories whenever they need to13

Benefits of Soft Skills TrainingDrama is great for TV shows and movies, but it’s the last thing managers or directors can afford todeal with in the workplace. Still, many conflicts stem from communication breakdowns ormisunderstandings.Soft skills training seeks to eliminate these damaging miscommunications and ensure that a teamoperates at its most efficient and amicable level.Soft skills training can mean the difference between:Assertive action vsaggressive actionPersistence vspesteringConstructive criticism vscondemnationCreativity vschaosLeadership vsbullyingFulfilling communication vsfrustrating interactionsThe benefits of an effective soft skills training program are numerous. Soft skills can influenceeverything from the way employees communicate with customers to the way they solve problemsinternally. It’s not an overstatement to suggest that improved soft skills training can influence nearlyevery aspect of a business operation in a positive way.One final note, it is possible to focus too heavily on a certain soft skill, or, to attempt to promote acertain soft skill too heavily within one group.Some companies spend an inordinate amount of their training budget on senior management orexecutive positions. Yet, professionals at all levels will benefit from soft skills training. Soft skillstraining allows pros to become better communicators and better employees. In the end, soft skillstraining is an essential pursuit for both businesses and professionals.14

Conclusionej4 can offer businesses a wide array of trainingvideos that encompass virtually every softskills topic you could imagine. From choosingthe right business attire, to managing stressfulsituations, ej4 is dedicated to providing themost comprehensive and useful eLearningresources for forward-thinking professionals.Sign up for a free 15-daytrial of ThinkzoomCheck out a list of additional topics here, or, tospeak with one of our dedicated teammembers, contact us today.About ej4Since 2004, ej4 has delivered the unexpected inthe eLearning industry. Our unique style ofmicrolearning videos combines instructionaldesign with adult learning theories and isdelivered via contemporary video design. Ourmodern learning management system issimple, intuitive, and mobile so employeeshave the freedom to learn anywhere, anytime.If you are interested in seeing how the principlesplay out in some actual content, you can sign upfor a free 15-day trial of Thinkzoom, ourLearning Management System.You can contact us for a demo as well. We’dlove to hear from you.People Grow Business.We Grow People. 2019 ej4, LLC / 4 CityPlace Drive Suite 450 / St. Louis, MO 63141 / 800.566.3159 / / [email protected]

become a better public speaker through soft skills training and practice. Plus, people with strong soft skills can bolster them further through training. The problem is that companies don't always have the tools to facilitate that kind of growth. A few common problems business leaders encounter when implementing soft skills training include: