Updates from McKinsey

How to develop soft skills
As today’s skill shift accelerates, it is essential that organizations enhance and expand development initiatives for business longevity.
By Julie Avrane-Chopard, Jaime Potter, and David Muhlmann – As automation and artificial intelligence dramatically change the nature of work, employees must fine tune the social and emotional abilities machines cannot master. To encourage this behavior, employers must adjust the ways they assess, educate, train and reward their workforce on soft skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

Soft skills, which are commonly defined as non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, are vital to organizations and can impact culture, mindsets, leadership, attitudes and behaviors. These skills fall into the following categories:

  1. Advanced communication and negotiation skills
  2. Interpersonal skills and empathy
  3. Leadership and management skills
  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  5. Adaptability and continuous learning skills
  6. Teaching and training skills

A key difference among today’s large-scale skill shift and those in the past—including the transformative transition from agriculture to manufacturing—is the urgency for workers who exhibit these capabilities.

Developing required soft skills and ensuring employees, and in turn organizations, are set up for success isn’t as simple as popping in a training video. Instead, companies must change their employees’ processes and behaviors—a much harder task.

Assessment is an important first step. Sizing the soft skill gap proves particularly challenging, since they typically lack systematic evaluation and certification mechanisms. HR departments must be equipped with a framework that codifies soft skills and defines their respective evaluation criteria.

For example, several European firms are employing “stepping stone” initiatives to build a digital platform to help workers evaluate their soft skills, know their strengths and development needs, gain access to specific trainings, and get certified.

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Effective reskilling requires blended learning journeys that mix traditional learning, including training, digital courses and job aids, with nontraditional methods, such as peer coaching. One retail giant has distributed over 17,000 virtual reality headsets that immerse employees in unfamiliar situations, such as their first Black Friday sales day, and is training them in new tech, soft skills and compliance.

People naturally operate based on incentives—they do what is rewarded. To encourage people to not only begin their soft skill learning journey but to continue with it, rewards and incentives are critical. more>

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