What if we say that soft skills (or people skills) matter even more than hard skills? The highly competitive job market and emerging technological innovations have created such a high demand for hard skills that soft skills are often dismissed and underestimated.

Thus, personal qualities are becoming more important today since companies realize their value and impact on business performance. Conducting successful negotiations, building effective work within the team, and coping with conflict situations help teams develop and businesses prosper.

Especially now, amidst the pandemic crisis and permanent telecommuting, soft skills are crucial to ensure productive collaboration, streamlined communication, and excellent self-management. But the question is: how to develop soft skills most effectively? 

We’ve been in your shoes and know how daunting it can be to choose the most suitable soft skills development strategy. In this blog post, we share new approaches and traditional methods to train your employees and grow professionals with strong social-emotional skills.

Virtual Reality immerses employees into real-life situations

VR training is now one of the most popular approaches to soft skill development maturing every year. Practicing such skills with VR enables people to experience a strong sense of immersion into a realistic and unique environment that can’t be created with traditional strategies.

The VR training’s main idea is to allow employees to practice in real-world situations without fear of making a mistake and taking its consequences. But at the same time, to analyze the results of different approaches and work on their mistakes. So, how can VR be efficient for your employee’s soft skill training? Here are its main benefits:

  • Safe training environment. When employees feel safe while training, they are open to experiments and don’t feel anxiety. Moreover, after VR training, people are 275% more confident in applying their knowledge in real life. 
  • Better focus. It’s observed that VR-trained workers are 1.5 times more concentrated on the task they perform than their peers who train other ways. That’s because when learners wear a VR headset, they’re completely involved in the virtual scene and aren’t disrupted by the outside factors. 
  • Convenient performance tracking. With the help of VR approaches to behavioral data collection, you can measure the ROI and track each employee’s soft skill progress. This technology helps organizations detect skills their employees lack and find the most suitable ways to obtain and improve them. 
  • Faster training. Virtual reality training can save time on enhancing soft skills. VR-learners study four times faster than their colleagues do in the classroom. 
  • Lower costs. Employing VR training into the company can reduce your soft skills development expenses in the long run. You invest in VR headsets once and re-use them for different employees.

VR training can be divided into several categories that address particular upskilling requirements: 

  • 180- or 360-degree videos can create a scene of a meeting with virtual avatars where employees can train their negotiation and communication skills. This type of simulation is usually used for empathy training to work with human emotions. 
  • Passive virtual reality – 3 Degrees of Freedom (3-DoF) fixes the learner’s head in one location and provides a realistic environment in front of them. In this case, the employee feels like a speaker at a large conference and can improve their speech and grow in confidence.
  • 6-DoF is used to simulate the situations when a learner needs to interact with avatars and move in the virtual scene. 

In the future, it’s expected that VR will present even more opportunities for soft skill development. For example, it can be multi-participant immersion, where several employees train in one virtual environment. For AR training, it’s already possible to involve up to three people simultaneously, so virtual reality is next to incorporate this function.

Blended learning addresses diverse soft skill needs

For corporate soft skills development, blended learning is considered one of the most workable methods that bring impressive results. Basically, it involves a balanced combination of self-paced, onsite, and web-based training. Below we share a detailed list of what blended learning incorporates:

  1. Gamification uses game elements like level badges, dynamic interfaces, or role change in the learning process to gain empathy and foster teamwork. For example, your support team can swap roles with customers to understand their pain points and needs. This can help your team understand how customers feel when interacting with this department and what soft skills can be improved for better customer service. 
  2. An instructor-led live virtual classroom (LVC) is used for face-to-face online training and real-time feedback. 
  3. Adaptive learning uses algorithmic adaptivity to provide personalized training methods and address unique employee’s needs. 
  4. Online teaching assistants can consult a learner on any topic 24/7.
  5. A learning management system that helps managers track people skills performance and progress. 

You may select those methods aligned with your training needs in particular. But the main idea of blended learning is to work on the problem from different perspectives and obtain diverse soft skills. Additionally, it offers greater flexibility than using a one-size-fits-all approach since every employee is unique and has their own perception of information. Thus, mixing different training methods can create a unique personalized program to suit a particular person.

Microlearning enables immediate soft skills application

Microlearning or microtraining stands for studying small units of information and practicing short-term activities to employ it during a worker’s everyday flow.

It involves narrow topics, short time periods, and little effort. Unlike other soft skills approaches, microlearning perfectly adjusts to the busiest schedule because employees don’t need much time to train. In fact, humans can’t stay focused for too long; that’s why microlearning allows getting the most of the training in the shortest period of time.

Since microlearning is embedded in everyday activities, it increases the chances of behavioral changes within your team and allows workers to apply the acquired knowledge immediately. 

Microlearning content can be used in many forms, such as videos, infographics, workshops, games, discussions, simulations, demos, and others. It works great for onboarding the newcomers or upskilling workers with customer-facing roles.

Mentorship promotes two-way training

Mentorship is a proven approach to soft skill development that implies training an employee’s communication skills and manager’s leadership and coaching skills. Its main idea is to share a manager’s vast experience in dealing with troublesome situations and building an effective collaboration inside a team.

The mentoring process typically starts with defining the strong and weak sides of an employee’s existing skill set. After that, the manager decides on the development strategy and soft skills approaches and provides a clear pathway to improve them. During the learning process, a manager gives his mentee actionable feedback. Besides, a mentor is also improving his soft skills when training different workers.

Final thoughts

In the world where work conditions and job roles are changing swiftly, soft skills are among the few constants. They are now more critical than ever since businesses need to stay productive and competitive. Respectful interpersonal relationships, effective communication, creativity, and social resilience are the key factors of a successful and professional organization. And all of the mentioned above can be achieved with the right soft skill development techniques. 

This article covers proven methods for training people skills that we find the most useful above others. Our team strongly believes that hard and soft skills should be honed to perfection at an equally high level. Thus, we advise you to incorporate people skills training to your team members’ professional development plans to increase inclusion, adaptability, and creative thinking.