Stop wasting money, stop ignoring soft skills training

August 6, 2018 Kristian Buus

Learning and development managers are recognising soft skills as the number one learning priority for 2018.(1) But are businesses aware of the urgency?

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Although many businesses recognise the importance of soft skills, even more put off plans for improvement due to ""other priorities"", ""lack of budget"" or ""lack of buy-in from leadership"".

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What these businesses might not realise is that every day they postpone soft skills training, they are losing money.

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The impact of soft skills development on the bottom line of your business has been backed by science throughout numerous studies. For example, a recent study from Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Michigan found that soft skills training boosts productivity with 12 percent, staff retention during training programmes with 10% and delivers a 250% return on investment.(2)

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This is huge. Return on investment and the effects of increased productivity are quite obvious but what about the financial benefits of increased staff retention?

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The huge financial impact of increased staff retention

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Research suggests that the majority of UK employees (63%) would switch employers if only they got  more training opportunities.(3) Combine this with the fact that the average UK employee has gone two years without training and over 10% more than four years, this is revealing a big problem in the job market.

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Employees realise (and experience) the impact of insufficient training themselves. Over 40% say they’re less productive due to the lack of training and over a quarter are worried this is impacting their career progression.

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On the other hand, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.(1)

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What are businesses waiting for? Not developing adequate soft skills programmes is causing businesses to lose money and people.

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The importance of soft skills only grows

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Looking at the history of workplace automation, MIT economist David Autor argues that rather than replace humans new technologies also complement humans in the sense that they amplify the need for workers with problem-solving skills, adaptability and creativity.(4)

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New technologies are highlighting the fact that there are still a lot of tasks that computers can't perform, and all of these are strongly related to soft skills.

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Another study, by Harvard economist David Deming for NBER, has concluded that possessing STEM skills is not sufficient for being successful in the workplace. Deming found that jobs requiring high social interaction grew by 12% between 1980 and 2012 while math-intensive (but less social) jobs shrank by over 3% during the same period.(5) Employment and salary growth were particularly high for jobs requiring high levels of both STEM skills and soft skills.

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The need for STEM skills is still increasing but the need for soft skills is growing at a much higher pace. Add new technologies to the mix and soft skills are the number one requirement for a future-proof career.

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Suitable content that is accessible at the employee's preferred place and time

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So why are many businesses not stepping up? More than a third of employees say that leaving the office for training is a problem. Cost is the second most common reason and nearly a quarter can't find suitable courses.

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84% of the UK employees would like to take control of their own professional development by choosing the content that’s most relevant for them and completing it when it suits them best – and would feel more loyal to an employer who allowed them to do so.

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Choosing content that's relevant and accessing it at employees' convenience without leaving the office – these are challenges that can be overcome by digital learning solutions, without much effort. 43% of the respondents said they would embrace option to access courses online.

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There are digital learning solutions aplenty, so the main challenge is to find one that offers the most relevant content for your employees. Here are a few questions you can ask when considering a new digital learning solution:

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  • Does the content match our employees' learning needs?
  • Is there a wide selection of content?
  • Has the content been designed or authored by experts in the field?
  • Is the content practical and hands-on?
  • Is the content digestible at a place and time when employees would like to access it?
  • Is the content not too long or too short?
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The time to act is now

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Of course, the studies mentioned above only take into account the measurable effects of soft skills training. What about the reduction of miscommunications, friction and other efficiencies?

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Soft skills aren't a nice-to-have, they're at the core of any successful business.

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Would you like access to hundreds of eBooks on soft skills and personal development? Talk to your Cornerstone representative now.

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Sources

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(1) https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report-2018

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(2) http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/884336/27600987/1498048125603/PACE_june2017.pdf?token=AY6x4nnpRLvshJaReuPCAsQOQ4U%3D 

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(3) http://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/recruitment/half-professionals-leave-employer-better-training-opportunities/110120

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(4) https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdf/10.1257%2Fjep.29.3.3

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(5) http://www.nber.org/papers/w21473.pdf 

About the Author

Kristian Buus

Kristian is the CEO of Bookboon, the world's largest e-book publisher for employee effectiveness and soft skills. By making its platform incredibly easy to use and only publishing industry-leading experts, Bookboon boasts some of the highest usage rates in the digital learning sector and is often described as the Netflix of digital learning.

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