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Nurturing Employee Soft Skills

How to Develop Staff Soft Skills on a Budget

Everyone is looking to recruit multi-taskers and multi-thinkers these days. While recruiters have always wanted candidates who have excellent soft skills, the pandemic has changed the priorities that companies have and the types of skills that they are looking for in their staff.

Some skills, of course, will always be in demand. These include communications skills, problem-solving abilities and time management. However, there has been an increased focus over the last 12 months on less obvious soft skills. Examples of these are emotional intelligence, critical thinking, active listening and collaboration.

Retaining these skills within your team will enhance the success of your business. So how can you support and develop these skills in your workforce without breaking the bank?


Get into coaching

Coaching is regarded as a key element of good leadership and an effective way of empowering staff to take control of their own learning. The Association For Coaching states that coaching can be used flexibly to develop skills such as:

  • Communication
  • Management style
  • Adaptability
  • Performance improvement
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision making

In other words, coaching sits well with soft skills development. While SMEs may need to make an initial investment in coaching training or workshops, establishing a coaching culture means that staff can coach, and be coached by, each other on a regular basis.

Coaching encourages staff to produce their own answers and action plans, which in turn will improve their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Use your emotions

With such a tough year behind us and challenges still ahead of us, there has never been such a focus on emotional intelligence and empathy.

Some may think of empathy as a bit 'touchy feely' for the business world but mastering it can yield bottom-line results. Showing empathy can help business leaders to understand customer needs, motivate staff, and negotiate more effectively.

The report from HR Magazine is that there is a clear emotional intelligence skills gap, despite growing demands for them from UK employers. Increasingly, companies are valuing EI skills such as active listening and valuing positive relationships with others.

Research indicates that people can develop their levels of emotional intelligence, and providing information, tools and resources on mindfulness can be a great help in the workplace. Mindfulness encourages staff to be in the moment (thus allowing them to listen and respond better) and to find ways to build resilience (which helps staff to manage stress and understand others more).

There are plenty of mindfulness resources available at no or low cost - examples include factsheets, apps, and online courses.

Work together

Trust in the workplace has never been more important, and trust can be built by encouraging a culture where staff work collaboratively. SMEs can improve these skills by making sure that communication flows effectively through the business and by encouraging staff to work together on projects.

One way to achieve this is by identifying someone in the company who is particularly good at team building and by asking them to build activities around:

  • Small team tasks and targets
  • A positive working environment (whether that is online or in the office)
  • Sharing project information
  • Celebrating success
  • Team objectives.

Adopting these types of initiatives can help you form a longer-term soft skills development programme that will be sustainable, effective and affordable.