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How to determine your ‘soft skill’ training needs

The professional development and soft skill training of staff is vital for any organisation.

For the organisation itself, soft skill training is important to remain viable in a competitive marketplace, adapt to changes in its environment and maximise team performance and culture.

For the individual, soft skill training provides an acknowledgment of their importance in the organisation, a pathway for growth and motivation to stay with the company.

Now before I go any further, let me define what soft skills actually are.

Firstly, hard skills, or what I call technical skills, are job-specific abilities that can easily be defined and measured such as typing, graphic design, software programming and operating machinery.

Soft skills, or what I call people skills, are less tangible and harder to measure qualities such as etiquette, leadership, behaviour, communication and strategic planning.

In today’s business environment, both hard and soft skills are essential in any role and for the training plans of an individual and team.

Ok, so you’ve made a commitment to the ongoing development of your team, how do you now identify what ‘soft skill’ training is required?

Here are four strategies to guide you in determining your soft skill needs.

1. Conduct a situational analysis

There are many different models that companies can use to do a situational analysis.

No matter which model is applied, it will help identify areas in the business that require training and development.

It will put the spotlight on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and gaps in your team.

It will help you realise or forecast change in the business environment and any timeframes you should consider.

Then you can consider what skills are required, not required or need improving for your team to reach the desired level of performance.

A situational analysis is a comprehensive look at the ‘now’ from a holistic business perspective and is a great strategy at the outset to identify the soft skills for further development.

2. Conduct a 360 degree assessment

These will help provide an objective assessment of a staff member’s strengths, weaknesses and performance.

360-degree assessment is a process that enables self reflection by the staff member and assessment by their manager, peers and even customers if required.

This type of assessment is more accurate and validating of their performance than just feedback from the manager.

Soft skills can also be a blind spot which is why assessment from a range of people can better highlight where their strengths and deficiencies are.

3. Compile a behavioural profile of your team

Behavioural profiling will provide you with greater understanding of your staff, how they currently work together, how they can work more effectively together and what else you may need in the team.

One of the best models used today for behavioural profiling is Belbin.

Belbin Team Profiling workshop will identify how various behavioural styles are represented in an individual and where the strengths and gaps of your team lie.

This will provide further aid in identifying the soft skills that are lacking and required in both an individual and also the team.

It is important to reinforce that some soft skills are not just important for the individual, they are just as important for the team they work within.

4. Set a training path for each staff

With an objective assessment of your staff and understanding of your organisation’s soft skill needs for the future, you can now sit down and map out a training path with each individual staff member and also each team.

Like any good plan, it should come complete with goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, acceptable to you, realistic to achieve, and time-bound). This will help you both monitor the progress of the training and evaluate its overall effectiveness.

Plotting out the training requirements for each individual will also identify what training can be achieved in groups (i.e. workshops, conferences), individual coaching or by team building.

This will help create efficiencies in your training and development budget and keep everyone accountable along the way.

Anita Kropacsy is Corporate Training Manager for Corporate Challenge Events