The hard truth about softskills
article by Diane Shawe M.Ed
CEO AVPT Global S.a.r.l
Though the benefits of soft skills training may be hard to measure in the short term, individuals and organisations need to look beyond simple pain relief, from a symptom of a much bigger problem and toward a long term, system-wide wellness approach. Soft skills training is the key to job security and a healthy organisation, a successful economy that help people into work. There is a quick, effective and surprisingly quick solution offered by the Academy of Professional and Vocational training. Read on…
You may have heard the saying, that in business that you are either selling aspirin (making a customer’s pain go away) or vitamins (by making the customer’s existing situation better). The work at the Academy of Professional and Vocational training (AVPT) involves helping individuals and organisations with soft skills or behavioral competencies; things like interpersonal communication, self-awareness, conflict negotiation, collaboration and leadership. These soft skills are typically considered vitamins more than aspirin. But why should they?
Many organisations suffer a great deal of pain because employees lack proficiency in many of these interpersonal skill and all too often the only thing that has been transferable is bad habits, poor performance and ineffective execution of tasks. The pain may be as obvious and sometime quantifiable, but that doesn’t lessen its impact on the bottom line both for the company and the individuals earning power.
The downturn in the UK and global economy resulted in slashed budgets of training and development departments, and many departments jettisoned altogether. But what is the cost of not focusing on these people skills both now and in the near future? So which is more important: technical skills or soft skills? It seems that you need technical skills to get taken on by a company (which can be a big ‘if’) or to do an apprentice course, but soft skills are what help you succeed once you are hired. Both are ultimately important, but technical skills get a lot more attention, especially in a poor economy where securing a job is paramount.
Indeed it has been suggested by various people that in a number of professions soft skills may be more important over the long term than occupational skills. The legal profession is one example where the ability to deal with people effectively and politely, more than their mere occupational skills, can determine the professional success of a lawyer (See the rather marvelous article by Giuseppe Giusti: Soft Skills for Lawyers, Chelsea Publishing (), 2008)
A recent survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that although MBA’s were strong in analytical aptitude, quantitative expertise, and information-gathering ability, they were sorely lacking in other critical areas that employers find equally attractive: strategic thinking, written and oral communication, leadership, and adaptability.
To get, and keep, a job you typically need a repertoire of technical skills. Dentists need to know how to fill cavities. Secretaries need to type 100+ words per minute. Accountants need to take long term qualifications. But beyond the technical skills, though, which dentist do you go to?
The current state of Europe
At least 26 million unemployed people have been looking for work across Europe during the long, hot summer of 2013. They will not be the only ones looking. Millions of school and university leavers will join them in the search. Millions more are looking for more work than they already have – another part-time job, or a full-time job in place of part-time work.
Have you planned to join that group or stay a member of that group or are you planning to solve your problem?
While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.
Traditionally, people don’t receive adequate soft skills training – either during vocational instruction or as part of on-the-job training. That’s why services like those of AVPT are great for helping people build great people-skills. What is a huge bonus for employers is that courses in soft skills are cheap, quick (none last more than 4 weeks), effective and have global accreditation.
As an apprentice, development of these skills should be encouraged alongside regular training and study. The development of these skills is about learning through guidance, practice and working out which areas you could improve on. Excellent online courses in communication can be very important in gaining a vital interpersonal skill.
Just take a look at what the future is going to look like with big data? What type of jobs could you create for yourself\/
Working as a team is key to the success of any company and something that you can be taught by the latest online courses. If you are not used to it, it can be difficult to cope with people with different personality traits who you may clash with in the outside world. Teamwork development will come as you work on different projects and learn the best ways to negotiate and liaise with others.
For an apprentice it is essential that they have the opportunity to develop their soft skills and through an online (but guided system of virtual tutors) like that offered by AVPT) it can be done quickly and cost effectively alongside the technical training. Being proactive is a personality trait that some people are born with while others have to work on its development. It is the difference between being the person who is always being told what to do or being the person that goes out there and figures it out for themselves. It is a skill that is valued amongst employers as it makes companies more productive.
Although building workforce competency is generally focused on first-time employees, human resource professionals say in Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce—a poll released in June 2008 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that many workplace soft skills have become more important for experienced employees than for new workers. These skills include critical thinking/problem solving, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork/collaboration, and adaptability/flexibility.
Proficiency in these soft skills separate organisations who may survive yet another year versus those who grow, adapt and are able to compete in a global economy. Employees proficient in soft skills demonstrate higher employee engagement, greater productivity, and help make an entire organisation more competitive in the marketplace. It makes sense to look at the new training paradigm offered by Academy of Vocational and Professional Training Ltd.