From education to employment

Top tips for building interpersonal skills in the workplace

By Adam Clarke, VP UK & Ireland, CoachHub

After two years of work taking place increasingly remotely, 2022 was the year in which many employees returned to the office on a more frequent basis.

Indeed, staff in the UK recently acquired the right to request flexible working from their first day of employment with a company, illustrating a firm belief in the hybrid model.

What does this mean for skills development? Largely, hybrid working means that employees will need to have strong communication skills both when working from home and when working in the office. Managers thus have a key role to play in encouraging their teams to develop these professional social skills across the two environments.

The value of interpersonal skills

When an employee engages with a personalised professional development programme, they can choose from a wide range of skills and aptitudes to work on. According to CoachHub platform data, which highlights the key focus areas for coachees across the globe, employees in the UK placed conflict management, communication, and emotional regulation at the top of their priority topics for coaching in 2022. All three subjects can be grouped into the overarching theme of interpersonal skills; the skills that we use every day when we communicate and interact with others.

Active listening, problem-solving, team-working, and decision-making, among others, are all encompassed within the umbrella term of interpersonal skills.There are a range of benefits associated with a workforce that is equipped with strong interpersonal skills. These skills are critical to becoming an effective communicator, and interacting with colleagues in a way that fosters both productivity and personal development. In turn, this can contribute to higher levels of employee retention, as employees enjoy a more welcoming and interactive workplace environment. Externally, communicating effectively can result in more effective negotiation with clients, which may in turn help organisations reach their business objectives, perhaps even leading to higher profits.

Interpersonal skills are paramount – hence why so many employees are prioritising them. Yet teaching such skills can be difficult, especially in a hybrid environment.

Surmounting the hurdle of developing interpersonal skills

The challenge associated with building interpersonal skills is that they can be much harder to teach. Often, such skills do not come into traditional approaches to education and training, as they often aren’t considered as high priority as hard skills for becoming employable. Some may also have a natural aptitude for interpersonal communication, leadership, and empathy for others. Even so, that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t benefit from resources and learning that helps them to improve.

Within the hybrid environment, employees have to regularly shift their modes of interaction with colleagues depending on whether they are in the office or not. For example, it can be much more difficult to handle conflict through the medium of a screen, as managers cannot necessarily pick up on body language. On the flipside, when working in the office some may have to adapt their response to situations, as they must react more quickly when faced with a colleague at their desk than when communicating asynchronously online.

It is therefore paramount that organisations equip their employees for whatever the future of work may look like, ensuring that they can continue to collaborate and communicate with each other seamlessly.

Equipping employees with the tools they need to succeed

The data demonstrates that it is certainly not a matter of driving appetite when it comes to nurturing interpersonal skills. CoachHub’s data found that employees are already prioritising the development of interpersonal skills like conflict management, so now it’s up to employers and managers to give people what they need to fulfil their appetite.

Employers can offer training to their managers on how to facilitate open communication within their workplace. But, we can also move beyond traditional approaches to skill development here, and introduce a digital coaching platform. This will allow employees to connect with their coach from anywhere in the world through regular sessions that take place via video call. This approach allows employees to concentrate on what matters the most to them, in a way that is convenient as well as cost-effective for the business. Consequently, organisations have the capacity to offer coaching to their full workforce, allowing each employee to reap the rewards.

Building a people development programme that includes balanced, in-depth learning for employees on interpersonal skills is an urgent requirement for businesses. Not only are employees requesting such development opportunities, but there are benefits for the business too, including improved talent attraction and, ultimately, better talent retention. Digital coaching is an effective tool that allows employees to work on topics including conflict management and beyond.

By Adam Clarke, VP UK & Ireland, CoachHub

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