Just in case you’ve missed our posts on the importance of soft skills training, or missed several major business publications preaching the value of skills that aren’t taught in business schools, we’ll reiterate the point: soft skills are important.
What makes us say that?
Consider the top three soft skills that Forbes identified in an article earlier this year:
- Problem Solving
- Emotional Control
Let’s briefly consider the logic behind these selections.
Chances are, your company exists to solve problems. Your entire revenue is driven by your consumers trusting that your solution can fix a problem they’re experiencing. Knowing that your revenue is driven by problem solving, consider how this skill impacts the workplace. For instance, selling your product involves identifying and overcoming objections that your buyer might pose. One common objection your sales reps might hear often is “I can find this solution for a better price elsewhere.”
Envision two sales reps, Greg and Charlie. Greg has limited problem solving skills, while Charlie is quick on his feet and experienced in solving problems.
How would Greg respond to the price objection? Most likely, Greg is going to hang up the phone and move on. You may not see that as a huge problem right now; after all, prospects say no all the time.
But imagine how a quick-thinking sales rep like Charlie, who has great problem-solving skills would be able to overcome that objection:
“You’re right, our product does cost more, but don’t you agree that you get what you pay for? Your customers are expecting the highest quality from you – can you afford to let them down because you decided to save a few hundred dollars from a vendor?”
By the time Charlie has finished his reply, Greg has already thrown away two more leads by letting them hang up. And those are leads that Charlie will never be able to use his problem-solving skills on!
One common function of most HR roles is to be a third-party mediator when conflict arises. A 2008 study by CPP Inc. on workplace conflict found that in the U.S., employees spent an average of 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict, which the report claimed amounted to $359 billion in paid hours across the entire workforce.
To put that into perspective, a company of 500 employees with average hourly earnings of $17.59 is spending $25,130 a week for hours dealing with interpersonal conflict!
Emotional control, coupled with problem solving, could help cut workplace conflict tremendously. Imagine how much productivity would increase if conflicts could be resolved quickly and positively. Reducing weekly conflicts by 50% would result in $653,380 saved annually for that same company of 500 employees.
Purpose-driven companies are more likely to succeed, according to Sparktures CEO Sherry Hakimi. In an article with Fast Company, Hakimi tells the story of Seventh Generation, a household product supplier. Selling soap, cleaning supplies, paper towels, and detergent doesn’t seem that exciting, but Seventh Generation is driven by a purpose: the company offers sustainable products, and is committed to replacing less sustainable competitors. Their mission statement is clear on their website: “To inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations.”
With a concise purpose, Seventh Generation has successfully won loyal customers in an industry that conventionally has high barriers to entry. That’s because having a purpose inspires belief, and belief inspires success. As Dr. David Schwartz writes in his best-selling book, The Magic of Thinking Big:
“Belief triggers the power to do.”
According to Dr. Schwartz, those with belief in a purpose are, “Specialists in creating positive, forward-looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others.”
It’s easy to see why Forbes listed ‘purpose’ as the most important soft skill.
How Soft Skills Training Impacts the Workplace
According to The Hard Science Behind Soft Skills, research conducted by Development Dimensions International, training soft skills boasts an impressive four-to-one average return on investment. That makes sense when you consider that a study by Elsevier Inc. found that there was a relationship between high emotional intelligence and high job performance.
What that means in practical terms is that with more soft skills training in the workplace comes higher performance among all employees. Of course, you don’t need research to see how problem solving, emotional control, and purpose impact performance in every role in your business.