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How Leaders Can Identify and Bridge the Soft Skills Gap in the Workplace?

  • By Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP
  • March 14, 2022
  • 2280 Views

Soft Skills Gap

As more people are re-entering the workforce, companies are scrambling to figure out how to close the soft skills gap plaguing their operations. Although there’s an abundance of candidates vying for the same jobs, that doesn’t mean that they have the right skill sets that companies are looking for. In fact, the soft skills gap is wider than ever due to the fact that the majority of people were working from home or laid off during the pandemic. The solution is to invest in corporate soft skills training for new and existing employees.

What Is the Soft Skills Gap?

There are essentially two types of skills employers look for in job candidates:

  1. Hard skills, which are technical capabilities and knowledge needed to perform work-related tasks
  2. Soft skills, which include fluency in communication, teamwork, leadership, professionalism, work ethic, and career management capabilities

While both of these types of work skills can be taught over time, soft skills are seriously lacking in the current workforce, mainly due to the rising prevalence of remote work and technological communications. Soft skills are vital transferable qualities required for success in virtually every work environment. Yet, studies have shown a significant decline in employee soft skills development over the past few years.

How the Soft Skills Gap Impacts Employee Productivity?

The soft skills gap in the workforce negatively impacts employee productivity in a number of ways. Desirable soft skills include:

  • Verbal and written communication
  • Time management
  • Excellent work ethic and the ability to self-govern
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative problem-solving

Employees who lack a basic understanding and grasp of these essential professional skills are unlikely to succeed in the workplace. Cultivating these soft skills is paramount to ensuring individual and company growth. In a world where hard skills are still considered more important than soft skills, it’s no wonder that so many companies are failing to achieve the results they want from their workforce.

How to Identify the Soft Skills Gap?

Using common-sense practices and in-depth training protocols, it’s up to leadership to identify and mitigate problems caused by the soft skills gap on a broad and intimate scale. Here are a few indications that the soft skills gap may be prevalent in your company.

Lack of Communication and Teamwork

Since team collaboration is a core component of most corporate environments, it’s important to instill excellent teamwork and communication skills in your employees. These skills are typically taught at the elementary and high school level but are sometimes forgotten in adulthood. Employees that don’t work well with their coworkers lack essential personal and interpersonal qualities that are required when working on group projects.

Like any other relationship, communication in the workplace is vital to success and creating a cohesive environment. Employees should feel comfortable communicating their ideas and feedback to improve working conditions without feeling ashamed or intimidated.

Lack of Innovation

Toxic work cultures stifle creativity and innovation. They also break down your employees’ spirits and make them less likely to contribute good ideas to improve your business operations and bottom line. A noticeable and measurable decline in employee performance, contributions, and innovations in the workplace is a telltale sign that something is very much amiss. Top talent can only be cultivated by freely sharing their ideas with their coworkers and upper management in a positive and inclusive work environment.

Minimal Team Interaction

One of the disadvantages of remote working is that it forces employees to communicate strictly using technological devices on a need-be basis. This reduces coworker accessibility and minimizes social and even work-related interactions between employees. On the surface, this may sound like a good thing, but a lack of employee interactions—even social ones—can actually create a palpable divide between coworkers. This makes it harder for them to relate to and, in turn, work with one another.

Even in a social setting, regular team interaction is an important component that helps build trust and increases people’s willingness to collaborate on projects together by establishing emotional connections. This level of empathy also makes employees care equally about the whole team’s success as much as their individual accomplishments.

Not Taking Initiative

Lack of employee initiative in going the extra mile proves a sense of disassociation with the organization. Somewhere down the line, employees stopped caring about the success of their companies, most likely because they didn’t feel valued for their efforts. Strong communication skills that include both listening and speaking when it’s your turn can help reassure employees that they’re an integral part of the team. 

Workplace Inflexibility

Businesses need to keep up with the constantly changing workplace expectations, standards, and protocols. This is especially true in a post-pandemic world where most people are still adjusting to returning to the workplace or splitting their time between onsite and remote work. Organizations with rigid work schedules and protocols, that don’t benefit their employees, are less desirable to work for and will most likely experience higher than normal attrition and turnover rates.

How to Bridge the Soft Skills Gap in the Workplace?

Add Soft Skills Workshops to Your Hiring Criteria

Business soft skills training workshops educate new employees about the type of behaviour and level of professionalism that’s expected of them while also allowing current employees to hone and update their existing knowledge.

Conduct Soft Skills Gap Analysis

Performing a thorough soft skills gap analysis helps companies understand the qualities that their current workforce lacks. Rather than hiring away the problem, you should instead focus on fixing it from within. Start by carefully evaluating the soft skills of your current employees and how they measure up against where you want to be.

Build a Skill Map for Employees

After you’ve identified the exact soft skills your workforce lacks, you can create a feasible roadmap to success that helps your employees cultivate their individual and team-oriented capabilities.

Motivate Employees Toward Self-Learning

One sign of a good leader is accepting constructive criticism and feedback regarding your leadership skills. Listen to your employees, take their feedback seriously, and apply it to your work as much as possible. Not only will you earn their respect and trust a lot faster, but this will motivate them to follow in your lead.

Create Soft Skill Learning Opportunities

Hybrid and online soft skills training workshops are ideal for establishing and maintaining a more successful and cohesive working environment. Customized soft skills workshops for corporations ensure that your business is getting access to the right tools and resources to see measurable results. Monitoring your employee progress and morale will also help you stay in touch with their needs and ensure continued success and job satisfaction.

The Soft Skills Group provides in-depth face-to-face and online soft skills training workshops that concentrate on building effective communication, time management, leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills to help close the soft skills gap in the workplace. Book a soft skills workshop in the GTA today.

Diana Kawarsky, MA, CCP

Diana is President of The Soft Skills Group Inc., and a senior training & development professional with over 20 years of experience in delivery, design & consulting with Fortune 500 companies, Universities & Colleges in Canada, USA, Europe, and Asia. Read More