SHRM – Managers Can Help Employees Hone Critical Soft Skills

A worker’s gossiping was creating problems among team members. Neither the first-time manager nor the group’s supervisor knew quite how to correct the behavior that was causing distrust among co-workers.

April Metcalf, SHRM-SCP, was the company’s HR director at the time. She used role playing with the manager and supervisor to help them learn how to address the situation, prepared them for possible responses from the employee when they met with her, and reviewed how to help prevent a repeat of the behavior.

“Role playing with the manager and supervisor helped them show more confidence and be prepared to discuss this [behavior] with the employee,” Metcalf says. “Going further, detailing potential situations with the employee helped her to see the discord that it was causing and [why it] was not helpful to the team.”

It was an example of soft-skill development—in this case, the skill of problem solving.

What the Manager Can Do

The Wiley research found that a number of respondents leveraged mentoring and reverse mentoring to develop soft skills, according to Capranos. Digital learning partnerships can also help an organization develop those talents among its employees.

“More and more universities are trying to layer softer skills into their curriculum,” such as learning how to work effectively in teams, he says. “A significant portion of companies have digital learning partnerships” with groups such as Harvard Management Co., and “a lot of those have content on how to be more persuasive, better at project management.”

Coaching is another strategy to help employees develop or improve a soft skill, says Jennifer Dole, director and principal analyst at 3Sixty Insights, a research firm headquartered in North Billerica, Mass

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