Many managers believe that they cannot measure soft skills. Training managers often wonder if there is a way to measure soft skills. communication, leadership, interpersonal skills, and other soft skills training programs.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills, also referred to as interpersonal or people skills, are non-technical skills that relate to how you work and interact with others. They’re different from hard skills, which are directly related to the job to which you’re applying and are often more quantifiable.
Soft skills include a variety of skills that improve your ability to work and communicate with others.
Examples of Soft Skills
Communication Skills: This includes both verbal and written communication skills. It involves being able to clearly express ideas to others, understanding what others are saying, and facilitating open and effective dialogue.
Leadership Skills: This involves directing and motivating a team, making decisions, managing projects or tasks, and taking responsibility.
Teamwork and Collaboration Skills: This involves working well within a group, being cooperative, and coordinating with others to achieve a common goal.
Problem-Solving Skills: This includes the ability to think critically, make decisions, and solve problems. It involves creativity, resilience, and a positive attitude in addressing challenges or obstacles.
Adaptability and Flexibility: These are important in today’s rapidly changing work environments. Workers must be able to adapt to changes and continue to perform their duties.
Time Management Skills: This involves managing one’s own time efficiently to ensure tasks are completed on schedule. It includes prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and planning effectively.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ): This involves the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.
Work Ethic: This includes being reliable, responsible, and diligent. It also involves demonstrating integrity and quality in work.
Resilience and Stress Management: This involves coping with stress and setbacks, maintaining a positive attitude, and persisting in the face of adversity.
Creativity and Innovation: This includes thinking outside the box, suggesting new ideas, and implementing innovative solutions.
These soft skills can be just as important, if not more so, than hard skills in many jobs. They are often what employers look for when deciding between candidates with similar qualifications. In the modern workplace, these skills are highly valued as they facilitate good teamwork and a positive work environment.
Guide to Soft Skills
Ways to Measure Soft Skills
It is easy to understand why many managers think that they cannot measure soft skills. Many soft skills trainers pay more attention to training concepts. They want to show the importance of soft skills by overwhelming us with content.
They want to give everything, perhaps because our clients expect us to give everything we know about a particular soft skills program.
They find it difficult to measure soft skills because they give learners a map and expect them to find their destination using it.
True, quantifying soft skills can be challenging as they are often related to interpersonal behaviors, personal attributes, and character traits.
Hard skills are definable and measurable.
But it doesn’t really mean that soft skills are not definable and measurable.
Our gurus only find it difficult to do so because they don’t want to simplify their concepts on how we can relate with each other.
My mission is to show you today how to measure soft skills. And I will give you seven ways.
In my training programs, I do not require leaders to measure all behaviors that demonstrate communication skills. That would be near impossible as there are many behaviors related to communication. There are also many kinds of communication.
If you are a self-driven learner, list down all the behaviors that you need to learn in communication. But to really learn how to communicate effectively, you’ve got to start with a few vital behaviors.
Vital behaviors are leveraged actions. They have predictable high-impact results.
For someone who does not know how to smile, smiling is a vital behavior. It makes people feel at ease with you before you open your mouth.
In delegating tasks, for example, the tone of your voice may tell people what you feel about them. It may also impact the way employees receive your instructions.
These are actions that demonstrate communication. You may not be able to measure communication as a concept, or as a set of skills, but you can measure a few vital behaviors.
If you are patient, you will soon realize that a small change may multiply your result.
This method of performance appraisal is excellent if everyone records your behaviors. 360-Degree Feedback involves feedback from all who observe and are affected by the performance of a candidate.
Peers, supervisors, subordinates, and even customers can participate. The feedback will often include specific examples of where the employee exhibited certain soft skills, which can then be quantified.
I use this for public speaking. I ask people what areas can be improved based on their observations. The feedback is immediate.
However, many 360-Degree Feedback sessions conducted by companies in the Philippines, require a sharp memory. That’s because the performance appraisal is given only once a year.
They typically remember their best or worst impression of you.
But if you focus on vital behaviors and you get immediate feedback, like what Toastmasters give to speakers in a meeting, you will accelerate your growth.
There are several personality and skills assessment tools available that can be used to quantify soft skills. These tools often involve a series of questions and scenarios, and the responses are used to assign a score or a level to various soft skills.
Examples of these tools include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) test.
The Influencer Model Framework is a good tool.
Obviously, the skills assessment tools available in the market are not created for you or for your team. It is for the most number of people.
In your training, you may create a self-assessment tool you can give to participants before and after the training.
If my goal is to measure full engagement, you may find a tool in the market and they are usually expensive. The price has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the tool but is part of a marketing strategy.
These interviews may help you predict future behavior based on the candidate’s past behavior.
They can be structured to assess soft skills by asking the candidate to describe situations where they had to use these skills.
The so-called behavior-based interviews are the other side of the coin called competency-based interviews. Any company can do this.
What you need is to come up with your competency strategy and map. Then, recruit people who also demonstrate corporate competencies.
When you get used to self-assessment tools, you can eventually incorporate soft skills into performance reviews. It may take some time, but whatever you want to manage must be measured.
Just keep in mind that though you cannot measure concepts and ideas, you can measure competencies. Then, you can identify the vital behaviors in each competency.
This kind of mindset is no different to measuring hard skills.
This might involve rating an employee’s communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and other skills on a scale.
Training and Development Programs
Companies can introduce training programs focused on soft skills and assess employees’ performance before and after the training.
The improvement can be an indicator of the level of a particular soft skill.
Just be careful about training.
Eighty percent of soft skills trainer tends to mouth the concepts and ideas they find in books or in Google. And this further complicates our idea about soft skills.
It was like listening to preachers talk about religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are not only hard to measure, but it is also disrespectful to measure them.
Perhaps, this is why Christians have their ten commandments. You have a checklist of what you cannot do.
In training soft skills, what you need is a checklist of what everyone must constantly do.
Simulations and Role-Playing
These are controlled situations where people’s soft skills can be tested and evaluated.
For instance, a group problem-solving task can help evaluate several soft skills like teamwork, communication, problem-solving, etc.
You can have simulations and role-playing regularly. Doing so will provide people with deliberate practice of the skills. You can then measure improvements.
Some years back, I found out that daycare teachers are doing this. They have a checklist of skills. I realized that their objective is not to measure the intelligence of kids, but how they are growing.
They employ simulations and role play too.
These methods work for small children. They will work for adults too.
Quantifying soft skills is not an exact science and results should be interpreted with this in mind. It’s also important to create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable developing and demonstrating their soft skills.
You can manage what you can measure. Measure the most important behaviors that demonstrate soft skills and you can see an immediate impact on sales, customer experience, and others.