My first job was as an assistant in Hollywood. (Yes, totally glamorous. I once got a glass of water for Fabio, and made terrible iced coffee for Richard Dreyfuss). As part of my job, I listened in on every phone call my bosses made, I sat quietly in meetings, and I watched as negotiations took place between various personalities. When it was (finally) my turn to be the boss, I had been exposed to how my company wanted me to employ soft skills in various situations. I’d learned tools to deal with cranky agents, vague network executives, chatty writers, and no-nonsense producers.
-Elizabeth Madariaga, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, Edios Media
As opposed to hard skills, which refer to things that are more quantifiable and teachable, soft skills are people skills, or interpersonal skills. These tools – empathy, communication, collaboration – are now referred to with the buzzy term of “soft skills.” In fact, 65% of employers chose soft skills as the most in-demand skills for their workforce.
In the corporate world, a hard skill might be learning the process by which your company creates, saves, and shares documents. A soft skill is presenting an idea to a group of people and persuading them to approve it.
Soft skills are hard to quantify, because of the subtlety required to employ them. They require a flexible mind, a nimble approach, and tailoring based on the unique situation. Like any skill, soft skills requires practice. People are different, and learning how to work with different personalities isn’t something that’s taught in schools.
My friend Lesley recently shared this blog post which asks us to start calling soft skills “essential skills,” and I couldn’t agree more. They are mandatory to your success in the workplace. New employees need to learn how they are expected to interact with colleagues, customers, and executives. And, they need to know how to make those interactions successful, so they can continue to grow and advance within an organization.
Online courses are a great way for companies to teach their employees both the hard and soft skills that help them reach their business goals. Video is an excellent tool to share a company’s brand, language, humor, and style, along with showing people how to use an internal database. You can use internal employees as the teachers, and help them to speak the way they would in real-life rather than a stilted script. You can play around with scenarios that show the preferred way of handling a situation. This will give your employees confidence that they are in the right place and that they are set up for success, which could lead to longer employment and greater overall satisfaction.
In 2018, we worked with Google to launch the IT Support Professional Certificate. The award-winning program, taught by Google employees, teaches both soft skills and hard skills. It blends the company’s personality and style with practical training and real-world examples. 70,000 learners have enrolled, and 8,000 people have already completed the course. The success of this program only continues to grow, and provides a good blueprint for other companies to follow, to help develop their own trainings.
The more training an employee receives on soft skills, the more return an employer will get on their investment into that person as a crucial part of their business. I stayed with my Hollywood bosses for 10 years, across 3 companies, 5 buildings, 2 countries, and one unforgettable meeting that culminated in Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz, kissing me on the cheek as he left (possibly the highlight of my entire career). I use the soft skills they taught me daily. Those skills helped me grow in my career to get to the point where I started my own company, working with companies to help them upskill their own employees in these same areas.