Workforce Development has many moving parts. Likely, you often read about the need for high-level skills training to keep up with an evolving workplace. Computer skills, STEM programs, coding – these are all essential for the future.
However, one aspect of growth, development, advancement that is not often discussed is what is referred to as “soft skills”. At Goodwill of Greater Washington this is an important part of the curriculum of all of our training programs.
But, what exactly does that mean?
The short answer is that soft skills are about effective communication. It has often been said that people don’t work for companies, they work for people. For certain, unless you are working out of your house, you are working with real people every day. People you often spend more time with than your family or friends. This puts an emphasis on the ability to effectively communicate with others.
Our soft skills training focuses on being empathetic, direct and polite. In our training programs, we do a big focus on switching from negative to positive – and how to say things more effectively. For example, “What’s with the word no?”
We all hate the word NO. Instinctively, when we hear it, we try to think of a way around it. We prefer the word yes so we can do what we want. You see a do not enter sign and you want to go through that door anyway. Yet, no is a really important word. Instead of using no, we can use words or phrases that work around it – giving folks a yes as a choice.
We do this a lot with children and we call it redirecting. When a child runs around the room and you’re going crazy and you say STOP RUNNING!!! Does it work? Yes, it works, but only for about 30 seconds before they are running all over the room again. Try saying, “Walk please”. You’ve redirected their attention and given them an option – what you want them to do instead. You’ve taken the word NO out and put in a yes.
Another example – “don’t stand in the hallway” becomes, “please have a seat in the lobby”. You tell folks what behavior you want, and you forestall any back and forth, discussion, or arguments. If you say, “don’t use the printer in the hallway”, the next question is going to be, ” what printer can I use?” Instead say, “please use the printer in the library.” That way you’ve told them, in a nice way, what to do…
This is just a small sample of how we try to get students to look at the world through a positive filter. We encourage them to see problems or situations through the eyes of others. We instill in them a need to face the world and the workplace with honesty. Honesty about what they see and honesty about who they are.
This type of training leads to a more well-rounded employee. One that is able to fit into and adapt to a new work culture. We also believe it puts people in a position to maximize their “hard” skills.
We realize this is only a small foray into the world of soft skills training. Hopefully, this can spawn a discussion among you and your peers to extend it even further.
What soft skills have we omitted? What do you think are the most important? And, does your organization engage in soft skills training? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comment section below.