Essentiality of Soft Skills

Measuring the results of training or development programmes on attitudinal and behavioural improvement/ change has always been a challenge. These skills, like communication, creativity, problem solving, interpersonal skills, team working, emotional intelligence etc., are attitude based. A change in attitude is required to learn these skills and ensure transfer of learning. The outcomes are not observable immediately and are intangible. It is relatively more easy to measure the outcomes of technical or skill-based training programmes since the skills learnt can be demonstrated immediately after the training programme.

However, soft skills training programmes are very important as employee performance and engagement are determined by attitude. Ironically, these programmes are also most likely to be ineffective and often fail in their purpose since attitudes and the resultant behaviour are shaped by personal experiences in life, the environment, education etc. and therefore, not easy to change. To bring about attitudinal change and ensure success of the training programme, willingness and sincere efforts from both the participant/trainee and facilitator/trainer are required.

For these programmes to be effective, the training pedagogy should be interactive and experiential. The key to the success of these programmes lies with the facilitator and participants. The facilitator should ensure that the contents are designed in in such a way that it is relevant and thought-provoking. He/she must have the expertise to engage the participants and motivate them to ask questions, think critically and challenge the status quo. Appropriate pedagogy with a mix of experiential learning and discussions of real life situations or case studies relevant to the participants’ work environment should be used. The facilitator should also establish his/her credibility through complete involvement, powerful communication and inspiring demeanour. The facilitator should also be convincing, energetic, demonstrate enthusiasm, and be spontaneous in the delivery of the session with the ability to improvise, if required, during the course of the session.

The participants should participate with an open mind, be willing to critically examine their belief system, and ready to unlearn. Primarily, this change has to come from within. They should actively participate and interact with fellow participants and the facilitator to ensure maximum gains from the programme. Participants must exchange thoughts and ideas to gain insights into different perspectives and enrich their knowledge.

A right attitude results in right behaviour. The outcome is in an engaged and motivated workforce, and a favourable work culture, the benefits of which can be reaped in the future with measurable outcomes. After all, right attitude is the essential bedrock upon which other ‘hard skills’ can be built!

by Vandana Madhavkumar