How Soft Skills Development Can Help You Attract Top Talent
In today’s competitive hiring market, I’m surprised when my clients focus on hard skills in the recruitment process. I recognize that it’s critical to identify candidates who have the core competencies to fulfill the job requirements, but this is an incomplete template for success in the workplace. Of course, every CEO wants their organization staffed with talent who can perform their day-to-day responsibilities and help drive revenue, but this overlooks the value of a contributor with a great work ethic, the person who thinks creatively, works collaboratively and helps solve those tricky problems that can bog down a new initiative.
I encourage my clients to identify those soft skills that will impact a new hire’s ability to thrive in their organization. For some, these key factors include critical thinking, communication skills, or adaptability. For others, time management and teamwork are vital.
It can be challenging to fully assess soft skills during the interviewing process. That’s why I’m a strong advocate for implementing soft skills training as part of an organization’s employee development, and for promoting this as a competitive advantage when recruiting new talent.
Soft skills training has the benefit of delivering a significant return on investment. A study from MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that a 12-month training program that focused on such soft skills as communication, problem-solving, and time and stress management delivered substantial returns—roughly 250 percent on investment within eight months after the training program ended. It also benefited the employees, who increased their earnings, were more likely to request additional hard-skills training and reported a more positive mindset about their work.
Soft skills training contributes to retention, but I’ve found that it’s a critical differentiator in recruitment efforts. Highly qualified candidates are increasingly looking for opportunities to become better leaders, hone their communication skills, and learn how to negotiate strategically. Offering this training as part of your employee development will help you build your talent pool, both internally and externally.
Executives typically encourage their HR leaders to focus on the soft skills that most clearly impact the organization, such as teamwork, time management, and problem-solving. But I recommend identifying the skills your candidates will want to build and providing a platform for them to do so within your organization. Leadership is of course at the top of that list, but you’ll want to include critical thinking, communication, creativity, networking, and conflict resolution to demonstrate that your organization is investing in building positive, collaborative workplaces.
The good news about soft skills training is that there are many different options, depending on your goals and your budget. Interactive workshops and online courses are two possibilities, and some of my clients have invested in hiring coaches to work one-on-one or in small groups with interested employees.
But if your goal is to focus on soft skills development as a competitive advantage, I recommend thinking about virtual reality. VR tools work on headsets, but also on standard mobile and desktop devices, and are especially cost-effective if your employees are in multiple locations or working remotely. An immersive experience is also much more engaging. A recent report in Harvard Business Review found that nearly two-thirds of learning and development leaders surveyed had either already implemented a VR training program for soft skills or planned to do so within the next two years.
Soft skills training certainly delivers value for recruitment and retention. But you’ll also ensure that your organization is staffed with skilled leaders, communicators, and problem solvers.
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