Soft skills training is not for amateurs
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2020 - 12:00am

There is a need for soft skills training. And this is a fact!

TrainingMag.com came up with an article that says: “There’s a subtle irony in that hard skills are relatively easy to learn, while soft skills are often hard to learn.”

It pointed out that “hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that include technical proficiencies and are easily defined and measurable. You usually obtain a degree or diploma when you have these skills, such as software programmer, mathematician, accountant, tool-and-die maker, forklift driver, etc.”1

However, in an age of disruptive technological development, soft-skills training must be given a lot more respect than it deserves. Technology continues to churn, and they are all accelerating in an exponential pace and all at the same time. One thing turns out to be self-evident. That the more technology rears its head, the more soft skills are required, and this can frustrate many business owners as well as techy executives.

Here is a vital reality check: The need to collaborate is key to future employability and success. But when you get three people together in one room, you end up with five opinions, and they usually get into the nerves of each other and fight. How do you get these people to stop wasting valuable company resources and learn to collaborate? Show me a tech tool or a platform that can make this happen? Being collaborative is not a technology, and no (AI) artificial intelligence can help one achieve this. This is a skill that has to be learned and developed. More importantly, this is a required skill training that leaders should have first so they can impart to their teams.

Herein is the challenge. In their quest and in desperation to provide soft-skills training, many company clients have expressed their disappointment with resource speakers, trainers, or facilitators who failed to deliver on expectations. Articulate but lacking on actual business and life experiences, these “pseudo-experts” mouth platitudes, motherhood statements, and on many occasions, offer some weird teachings that leave the participants confused. Others would deliver comedic lines, do crazy stunts, amuse, and entertain the audience without sharing useful ideas or principles on how to develop skills and contribute more to the growth objectives of the business. No sane or decent business organizations would risk their financial resources and tap into the services of “pseudo-experts” without business experience and are not practitioners in their fields.

Companies should embark on soft-skills training and development, especially for their team leads and managers. Consider the three crucial skills every leader should possess: Customer Focus; Critical Thinking and Communications. Dealing with internal customers and resources involve a significant amount of leadership skills. While dealing with external customers necessitates an enormous amount of people skills. And all of these are under “soft-skills.”

Business organizations should make life-long learning resources available for their people to enhance skills development and should dedicate a percentage of their annual revenue to reskilling staff.

The task should never be bet on the services of amateurs and “pseudo-gurus.” Let the professionals and the experienced do their job.

Leadership Training is definitely “soft-skills.” It should not lose its value, importance, or respect simply because it is labeled as “soft.” Neither should it be dismissed because immediate, measurable results are not evident. One more thing. In a volatile world of business, when ambiguity becomes the new normal, the last thing one would want to have in training programs, especially in leadership, is to have a “framework.”

Esko Kilpi says “The new, entrepreneurial experience of work is very different from the mass-industrial experience. It is about acting into the unknown, not necessarily working towards a known goal. It is more about improvising together than creating and following a script. It is more about emergence than rational causality. It is more about the sciences of complexity than systems thinking. The idea of improvisation is often associated with notions of unrehearsed, unintentional action.

 However, the more skilled the players are, the better they can embrace uncertainty. The better people have planned, the more flexible they can be. The more people are present for each other, the more reflexive and responsive they can be as individuals. The most important outcome is that we can focus attention on what is happening, what we are learning in the present, rather than on what we intend to do in the future. The best way to be future proof is to be more responsively present today.2

Do not offer “frameworks.” Instead provide tools and utilities that one can use in their unique stage of development and career requirements. This expectation can be a strain to trainers and consultants who are not into business. And it’s hard to cope with the challenge just by mimicking statements and clichés. Somebody says: “It takes two things to be a consultant - grey hair and hemorrhoids. The grey hair makes you look distinguished, and the hemorrhoids make you look concerned.” And just to be clear, I do not have both. I am still connected to business. And I am still in business.

(Francis Kong runs his two day Level Up Leadership 2020 workshop-seminar this March 11-12 at Makati Diamond Residences (near Greenbelt 1). For further inquiries or reservations contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph

1 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/countries-children-soft-skills-jobs-of-future/

2 https://medium.com/@EskoKilpi/the-new-business-cycle-embracing-uncertainty-c5f0b5dc3486

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