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How are soft skills essential in the world of remote work?

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai
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All around the world, workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers. In the UK, this is certainly the case, as job vacancies soared to an all-time high in July, with available posts surpassing one million for the first time.

Clearly, lockdowns have provided the workforce with the opportunity to reflect on what they want from their careers, and crucially, what’s missing.

For employers, this begs the question: why are employees upping sticks and moving on?

While there is no simple answer, many individuals might be on the lookout for fresh opportunities to ensure that they can work remotely on a permanent basis. Meanwhile, others may be keen to explore new roles where there are clearer prospects for training and progression.

So, how can organizations encourage employee retention?

Shift to soft skills

The first thing that business leaders can do to ensure that their workers feel valued is by reconsidering their training incentives. In the remote climate, often overlooked soft skills such as leadership, communication and active listening might have fallen by the wayside, as employees became increasingly accustomed to working in their own ‘bubble’. Even at the best of times, training workers to exemplify these traits can be difficult; after all, qualities like leadership are hard to quantify. As such, progress can be even harder to monitor in a remote setting, where staff cannot interact face to face.

Companies have also been guilty of neglecting skills like communication more generally in the shift to hybrid work; according to research from Soffos earlier this year, over a third of organizations said they experienced communication mishaps when working remotely, resulting in wasted time and resources. Clearly, in the shift to remote and hybrid work, where employees are often isolated from their colleagues, many often fail to keep up a sufficient dialogue with their co-workers. No doubt, this would be a good start in terms of equipping staff with the education they require to perform their roles efficiently, beyond the remit of technical skills training.

Indeed, there is a clear and pressing need for companies to equip their staff with adequate soft skills to thrive in the virtual community, where hard skills alone will not suffice.

Determining staff needs

It goes without saying that not every member of staff will require the same training.

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Whereas more senior employees with years of experience may have amassed soft skills such as leadership throughout their tenure, younger members of the workforce may have some way to go.

Obviously, this is not a hard and fast rule – many younger employees will be adept at these skills. However, there is something to be said for the time and care needed to develop these qualities. That’s why businesses must invest in the technologies required to assess and cultivate these skills on an individual basis, so that each member of staff will have their own personalized training plan for optimal performance and progression in their role.

Carrying out a skills and shortfalls audit of every worker would be a good place to start. Training managers can do so by utilizing AI-powered technologies that can capture unique analytics on each staff member – from there, it will be possible to map out the findings to develop the most effective training plan for individual team members and departments alike.

As a ‘one size fits all’ approach to training will rarely provide the intended result, programs driven by AI can use questionnaires and interaction with training courses to their best effect. If an employee has a hard time managing workloads and leading teams for example, they might be more inclined to take a course on leadership. This is something that an Artificial Intelligence-driven solution would recognize, allowing learning leaders to develop an appropriate course of action to fill in any gaps.

Identify role models, and use tech to help

It’s important to acknowledge that developing soft skills is not as simple as signing up to a two-week leadership training course, and workers are unlikely to suddenly wake up one day and immediately feel the benefit. Quite the reverse. In fact, these skills require ample time and practice to take shape – particularly in remote and hybrid roles.

That’s not to say that business leaders can’t help things along. For one, training managers would do well to identify senior employees within their organizations, those who exemplify key soft skills, and match them up with someone more junior. From here, senior training staff can set up remote mentorship schemes, allowing younger members of their team to ask managers for advice about specific aspects of their roles. Likewise, workers may be able to virtually ‘shadow’ their mentors in Zoom or Teams calls, sitting in on important meetings to watch soft skills like effective communication and problem-solving at work.

Ultimately, although soft skills can be hard to pin down, it is vital that organizations get to grips with developing these abilities in remote and hybrid settings. In doing so, they will be able to ensure that their staff feel fulfilled despite the current shifting sands of the post-pandemic workplace.

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, Inc. – an EdTech company producing a suite of AI-powered apps for corporate training, teaching and learning throughout society.

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