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What is Soft Skills Training?

By K. Testa
Updated May 17, 2024
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Soft skills training aims to improve one’s people skills. The term is usually used in contrast with hard skills, which refers to the specific technical expertise or other professional knowledge that is unique to one’s job. Some examples of soft skills are customer service, interpersonal communication, and business etiquette. In recent years, businesses have realized that friendliness and other personal qualities are just as important to their success as hard skills, and they have embraced the philosophy behind soft skills training. There are various types of training, and each can generally be thought of as relevant to one of the following three groups: employees, employers, or job seekers. There are several options for completing training, including online courses, training software, and in-person sessions.

A number of soft skills training programs are intended to help employees become more effective at their jobs. They might learn individual skills, such as time management and productivity. While these strategies might not be directly related to an employee’s technical knowledge, they can assist him or her with becoming a more well-rounded and efficient worker. Another frequently taught soft skill is interpersonal communication. Since most jobs entail working with at least one other person, employees can generally benefit from learning positive communication techniques.

Soft skills training courses for managers and supervisors frequently address various employee relations topics. Leadership and decision-making are two common areas of focus. They also tend to tackle more of the sensitive issues that might be faced by employers. Some typical examples of these include conflict resolution and dealing with sexual harassment claims.

Still other types of training can teach specific skills to individuals who work with the public. Two common examples are business etiquette and customer service. Some of these training programs target unemployed job seekers or people looking for a career change. The skills that they acquire from such training could benefit them in job interviews and in their new work environments.

Many soft skills training options are available online, or by ordering a CD or DVD series. Some free articles and other resources can be found online, as well, while most consulting companies charge a fee for their training materials. Private group training classes are also an option for many businesses.

Companies often want to study the outcomes of completing soft skills training. They are usually interested in measuring their return on investment to determine the training’s effectiveness on improving their business. Many human resources professionals feel that such training can boost productivity, leading to increased profits and lower staff turnover rates. As a result, a company might find that it can spend fewer resources on new staff orientation and other expensive programs.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Oct 05, 2014

Soft skills like professional behavior are just critical. A fast food place near my home closed because of lousy customer service. I don't think anyone expects Le Cirque at a burger joint, but I do expect someone to answer the drive-through speaker with something besides, "Uh-huh." No greeting. Just "Uh-huh."

When I got to the window, the girl took my card and stood talking to her friend, not swiping my card, giving me my food or anything. Finally, the manager saw what was going on and asked me if I had my food. I said no, nor my card. He gave me my meal for free as an apology.

That place closed not long after, and I know it's because no one who worked there had a single notion about customer service or professional behavior -- no soft skills, in other words.

By Grivusangel — On Oct 04, 2014

I guess it makes me sound like an old fogy, but I know some of the kids in our office have no etiquette skills whatsoever. It is really bad. A couple of them are OK, mostly because their colleges actually included some kind of "ethics and etiquette" class that was required. I'm glad, because they actually seem to know how to act.

One chick who sat next to me had obviously been raised in a barn or something. She came to work looking like an unmade bed, and then was completely unprofessional to people on the phone, and in the office. She quit after a few months to go back to law school. No one really missed her.

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