Technology has evolved rapidly over the last few decades — especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why it’s important for IT business owners and development firms to stay relevant through soft skill development.
Soft skills enable teams to communicate better and form authentic connections with coworkers and clients.
These are valuable assets to have, since most businesses operate remotely. The ‘human touch’ is getting harder to come by and soft skills are rapidly becoming a priority for those that serve other businesses.
If you are a developer looking for more web development projects, soft skill development should be a top priority for gaining new clients.
Further, investing in employee training and development as a part of employee benefits is a great way to retain your young workers.
In short, improving personal interactions within the workplace can help you keep employees and clients for years.
4 tips on developing soft skills among IT teams
Education has traditionally focused on complicated skill development only.
In other words, soft skill training imparted by an organization is often the first of its kind for many new recruits. This is true across industry niches.
However, learning communication skills can be more challenging than hard skills.
Such training often relies on frequent interactivity and behavioral feedback.
Of course, there are a wide array of online learning and development tools to make the learning process easy to execute — even when working remotely.
For IT and web development firms planning to launch a soft skill development program, here are some valuable tips to consider.
1. Encourage self-learning
Invite your employees to explore multiple learning options online. While there is plenty of free content on platforms such as YouTube, guided courses with clear milestones and learning outcomes keep employees more motivated.
For instance, you can have a system wherein each employee gets a learning allowance to take soft skill certificate courses of their choice.
If some of your sales employees struggle to communicate, you can conduct virtual English-speaking classes to help them develop their communication skills. This would be irrespective of native or non-native speakers.
2. Set up a mentoring system
Theoretical learning is essential, but new employees can learn best by working with an experienced mentor. An employee with practice in communication and problem-solving skills could help a new recruit with practical advice.
Try assigning a mentor to new employees, either individually or in small groups.
Encourage regular interaction through guided exercises. This will help you keep track of your employee’s soft skill development and progress in a streamlined fashion.
3. Gamify the process
One way to encourage soft skill development is to make the learning process more fun by offering rewards. This could include:
- Restaurant vouchers
Such rewards could be given to employees who complete specific learning outcomes.
When there’s tangible compensation after completing a milestone, employees are more inclined to complete their courses.
A digital rewards software such as Xoxoday, can help you create a rewards program for employee soft skill development.
4. Have regular check-ins
All managers should schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with their employees to ensure they are getting the support need to meet their goals.
Upskilling your workforce is more important than ever since everyone is working from home.
Because of this, employees care more about learning on the job.
Difference between soft and hard skills
Hard skills refer to the specific job-related abilities and knowledge that employees need to carry out their duties. These skills often include tangible ways to perform a particular function or operate an instrument.
For example, a coder at a tech company needs to know how to write code in languages such as Java, Python and so on.
On the other hand, soft skills are personal qualities that are not job-specific. Instead, they enable an employee to integrate better and stand out in the workplace as a good person.
A team player is a soft skill that is valued most in employees, regardless of the role. It entails the ability to adapt and work together with teammates.
According to Business World Magazine, employees with soft skills in collaboration and social behaviour “will provide a cutting-edge differentiator between the good and the great.” They also agree that the following eight skills matter the most to employers:
- Communication with impact
- Critical thinking
- Attitude and behavior
- Entrepreneurial mindset
- Problem solving
- Customer focus
- Digital and financial literacy
Some additional soft skills have become increasingly valuable, such as handling mental stress and self-learning.
In a country like India, soft skill development and training becomes all the more critical.
A 2019 study found that young Indians lack balance between academic grades and soft skills like creativity and critical thinking.
As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) change the very nature of work, employees need to fine-tune their social and emotional abilities to stay competitive.
For the employer, the task at hand is to assess, educate and train their workforce on soft skill development. This includes skills in collaboration, communication and creative thinking. The end result should increase the chances of customer retention.
Importance of soft skills at the workplace
When an employee interacts with a customer, mere technical knowledge is not enough. The employee needs to understand the problem the customer is facing and analyze it critically to identify the key pain points.
Here are three key ways to achieve this:
- Think creatively: Use this skill to solve the problem in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
- Communicate a clear solution: Talk to the customer in a comprehensible manner.
- Maintain regular contact: Stay in touch with the customer to address any further questions.
Top-notch communication and problem-solving abilities are paramount in every industry. Soft skill development for the IT industry is no different.
It is important to note is that these are not just for salespeople or customer service executives. All professionals can benefit from soft skill development training.
Soft skills in practice
Often, customers may wish to speak directly to an IT support team member for assistance. There may also be times where IT and web development team members need to work together with other teams, such as marketing and finance.
Senior leaders may also need to approach employees directly on joint organizational goals. This is where the following soft skills come into play:
- Critical thinking
All of the above skills will be essential for collaborating in organizations of all sizes. Additionally, a 2020 IT Trends Report identified the top three non-technical skills needed in modern IT environments. These include:
- Project management
- People management
- Interpersonal communication
The same study also indicates that 33% of IT roles were significantly altered by the addition of non-IT responsibilities like:
- Business writing and planning
- Public speaking
- Justification of time and/or budget
Clearly, IT roles are becoming less siloed and more fluid. As a result, soft skills are a must for individual employees and teams to stand out.
Soft skill development is worth the investment
As the business landscape continues to face new challenges and uncertainties, technical teams need to be future-ready
Investing in soft skills now can help IT grow in importance as a function.
It also creates a cohort of job-ready professionals who can take on multiple duties as their roles evolve.
In conclusion, soft skills empower employees to collaborate and collectively meet company goals. This leads to higher productivity, improved efficiency and better results. Enhancing and expanding skill development initiatives in today’s evolving ecosystem are paramount for business longevity.
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