Coaching: Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Dr. Purushothaman
December 7, 2013

In many positions and occupations, job performance is soft skill dependent. Companies use assessment tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, so they can get an idea of what soft skills employees possess. These skills are often intangible and, therefore, not easily taught. They tend to be more a function of personality characteristics. Some examples of soft skills include: Responsibility, Self-esteem, Sociability, Self-management, Integrity, and Honesty. Examples of interpersonal soft skills include: Participates as a member of the team, Teaches others, Serves customers, Exercises leadership, Negotiates, and Works with cultural diversity.

Hard and soft knowledge are both important in the working world but employees who lack the ability to manage their lives, take responsibility for their own success, and follow through on commitments need to learn soft skills along with the hard skills required for a job so they understand how all aspects of their lives connect. Soft skills provide a way to get the highest return on investment when considering human capital. They can build great people. Few individuals are fired because they lack technical knowledge. Most are fired because of a deficit in soft skill knowledge. Ultimately, what we know is not nearly as important as what we do with what we know, and how well we do it.

Some organizations will attempt to train soft skills but training is a use it or lose it proposition. While a participant may be motivated and excited after returning from a program, preexisting thought patterns can work against implementation. Many trainers will admit that follow up is necessary for retention. The transfer of training includes both generalizations of training on-the-job and maintenance of learned material. For this to occur, abilities must be learned and retained through practical experience and repetition. The work environment, including cultural climate, management and peer support, and performance opportunity, is vital to this achievement. Coaching is a tool that can help arrive at transfer of knowledge by recalling the lessons learned, reinforcing their importance, and motivating the client to move forward, despite obstacles or roadblocks. It is suggested that peer coaching, group coaching, or manager to employee coaching take place as follow-up. These techniques will make soft skill retention possible.

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