Understanding the Importance of Soft Skills in the Modern Workplace

posted on Sunday, May 1, 2016 in  College News

Soft skills are sometimes overlooked in broader conversations about employee training, but they are one of the biggest assets for an organization. Soft skills are the intangible traits that guide how you interact with others: leadership, communication, customer relations, conflict resolution, and collaboration.

Strong soft skills are extremely important to the professional success and reputation of both employers and their employees, especially in today’s connected society.

“Today, the customer experience can go viral,” said Dr. Celina Peerman, an organizational behavior specialist with The Peerman Group. “With fierce competition and customers who have more options… We have to be able to distinguish ourselves.”

Among the business and industry trainings offered at Hawkeye Community College, I have seen requests for customer service training increase the most in the past year. Companies large and small are finding employees have the technical skills for the work, but need additional soft skills training to increase productivity and enhance the consumer experience.

A recent survey by Talent Q showed nine out of 10 employers believe employees with soft skills are increasingly important in the world of globalization. Yet in a 2014 survey by the Hay Group, a majority of employers believe entry-level employees aren’t prepared with the soft skills they need for today’s global economy.

When a consumer has a positive customer experience they might tell one person. When someone has a negative experience they might tell 10 people – at least that’s the way it used to be. In the age of social media and 24/7 connectivity, that number as multiplied almost infinitely.

“We really don’t often talk about the good experiences as much, but we are more likely to post about the negative,” Dr. Peerman said. “It can multiply quickly.”

Smart business leaders are looking not just at how employees interact with customers, but how they interact with each other. Building strong communication skills is important for all levels of an organization, from entry-level employees to seasoned management. At Geater Machining and Manufacturing Co. in Independence, Hawkeye Community College provided effective communication training for frontline employees.

“It improved awareness and decreased misunderstandings due to poor communication skills,” said Char Bantz, human resources coordinator. “It was also beneficial for handling unexpected issues between internal and external customers.”

Soft skills are important across industries and at all levels in an organization. Understanding the role strong communication and customer service skills play is crucial to a company’s success in a global marketplace. For more information on customer service, soft skills, leadership, and other customized trainings for your business, contact Hawkeye Business and Community Education at 319-296-4223 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/business-and-community

Pam Wright, PHR, SHRM-CP, CCT, is Director of Business and Community Outreach for Hawkeye Community College.

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