Soft behaviors are pervasive throughout our being. How well we communicate, collaborate, and cooperate depends on our more malleable traits.
While the definition of soft skills has evolved since first introduced into the talent development lexicon, their value, and the value of the investments made in developing these skills, never ceases to be questioned.
Different approaches exist in defining the value of soft skills. Logic and intuition often drive soft skills investment decisions. A decision-maker may logically assume value, with no more evidence than their gut feel. For example, executives at a large technology company invest in teambuilding because they want the work performed by teams. Logically one would agree, if this is the case, an investment in teambuilding is the right decision.
Sometimes a decision-maker needs more than a logical assessment of value. The decision-maker may want a broader perspective to help inform decisions. Macroanalysis serves this need. These types of studies are often surveys administered to large numbers of people.
Through the statistical analysis, correlations will indicate there is a connection between softer behaviors and harder outcomes. This assumption of value will then fuel the decision-maker’s reasoning for investing in programs.
Still, many executives want to know the value at the investment level. They know that the outcomes associated with specific investments drive the attitudes, behaviors, and business results that inform the macro studies, which informs their logic and intuition. Microanalysis occurs at the program level, where the rubber meets the road. The better the outcomes at the program level, the better the results at the organization level .
Analysis of Soft Skills Investments
For many funding decision-makers, soft skills remain the skills about which we know very little. Many of us know that investing in soft skills generates value for the organization. But it takes effort. Value creation, and the demonstration thereof, requires that program owners be:
- Attuned to the specific needs of the organization.
- Curious enough to invest in research required to define the right program(s), given the organization’s needs.
- Defiant in their desire to design programs based on specific, measurable objectives that align with organizational needs.
- Empathetic to participant needs for immediate relevancy as well as a long-term opportunity.
- Collaborative enough to ensure that others within the organization will support the use of newly developed skills, behaviors, and processes.
- Obsessed with the need for accountability and process improvement, enough to ensure credible program evaluation occurs.
- Willing to share results, regardless of the outcome.
- Motivated to make change based on the data.
- Value creation requires discipline oiled by curiosity and a desire to drive change and improve performance.
No doubt, 2020 has thrown us several curveballs. No one has gone untouched by the disruption.
But disruption is not always negative. The opportunities in front of us are endless. It will be our use of soft skills—attuned, curious, defiant, empathetic, collaborative, obsessed, willing, and motivated—that will help move us from where we are today to where we can be in the future. Leveraging the value created through investments in soft skills will lead to a real renovation of our organizations’ culture. This renovation will drive benefits that far exceed $38 Billion.
How do you create, demonstrate, and leverage the value of investments your organization makes in soft skills?
Patti Phillips, Ph.D. is CEO of ROI Institute and Chair of i4cp’s People Analytics Board. Her most recent book, Proving the Value of Soft Skills: Measuring the Impact and Calculating ROI, has just been released by ATD.