Managers: Are You Setting A Good Soft-​Skills Example?

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re like many hiring managers these days, you’re happy if you can get someone to apply for your open position. You’re even happier if a good candidate agrees to work for you and shows up on the job. Unfortunately, the next step in the onboarding process can be challenging. I’m talking about soft skills development.

Hiring managers are faced with an influx of employees, primarily younger workers, who need serious soft skill development. Looking a person in the eye and shaking hands during an introduction is second nature to workers who came of age decades ago. For younger workers, who are more comfortable staring at electronic devices, developing soft skills can seem overwhelming. 

In fact, as reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article, some of these people will spend hours trying to solve a problem before they come to you, the boss, with a question. They dread personal interaction. If your employees are acting that way with you, imagine the kind of impression they’re making on your customers. 

We hear plenty about how younger employees want professional development and want to do work that makes a difference. One of the first steps in this process is to learn how to communicate effectively with co-​workers and customers. As part of your onboarding and training processes, have you considered adding soft skill development to the mix? Consider that 36% of millennials say interpersonal skills are essential, but only 26% believe their company is offering support in that area. This data comes from the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey. In that same survey, 35% of millennials indicate that confidence and motivation are core skills, but only 24% of employees feel the love from employers on those topics. 

However, some companies, like Bank of America and Subaru of America, have set up official soft skill training. Employees are attending classes that require them to role-​play interactions with customers who have a problem. They’re also learning how to write professional, grammatically-​correct email messages.

If you expect your employees to show off their soft skills, don’t keep yours in hiding. Think of creative ways to develop team members' skills. The business lunch, for example, is either an opportunity to shine or a chance to disgrace the company because of boorish behavior. Take your employees out to lunch and practice the skills you hope they’ll display when meeting with clients. In your interactions with employees, remember to shake their hands, look them in the eye, and say something pleasant.