several people with raised hands asking questions

Companies spend more than $3 billion on leadership and soft skills training every year. Yet only 11% of business leaders think these initiatives are effective (Source: McKinsey). 

So why does soft skills training have this dismal reputation? The reasons usually fall into these buckets: 

  • Not a good use of employees’ time
  • Doesn’t help the bottom line 
  • Doesn’t really change what people do

But what if these aren’t the real problems with soft skills training? 

What if it’s a matter of prioritizing to focus on what’s most important?

In Verb’s work with dozens of clients, we’ve found that prioritizing three things can boost the effectiveness of any soft skills training program. 

1. Prioritize shorter programs — 1-2 soft skills at a time. 

It can be tempting to pack lots of soft skills into your training program. After all, everyone needs to learn (or sometimes refresh) skills in listening, communicating, giving feedback, delegating, holding people accountable, managing time and energy, practicing inclusion, building trust, and all the other skills that help people work better together.

But when soft skills training tries to cover everything all at once, it takes up too much time and can even be overwhelming for employees. People lose interest and quit before they’ve had a chance to start experimenting, practicing, and benefiting from these skills. 

What’s the payoff of this priority?

If you’re focusing on 1-2 skills, you can design a short, impactful soft skills training program. At Verb, we’re finding that employees are more likely to be engaged and keep momentum with shorter programs

And there are more benefits. Completion rates are higher. It’s easier to track the effects of training for 1-2 skills. And, your learning strategy is more flexible and adaptable to inevitable changes  — like restructurings or new business strategies.

2. Prioritize the right skills — those that can impact your organization’s top goals.

If you’re building a soft skills training program for 1-2 skills, these skills must make the biggest impact possible, and you’ll need the data to show it. 

How do you know which skills to focus on? Ask lots of questions to the right mix of stakeholders in your organization. Verb recommends starting with your boss, speaking with at least one person on the executive or leadership team, connecting with the person who approves your program’s budget, talking to key team leads, and reaching out to at least a few people who would participate in your soft skills training program. 

What should you ask? Find out their main business goals, the pain points and challenges that could stall these goals, and what they think employees need to do differently to meet these goals and reduce these pain points. 

After you’ve had these conversations, you’ll use your L&D expertise to pick the most important 1-2 soft skills for training. 

What’s the payoff of this priority?

You’ve done the homework ahead of time to know the most important skills employees need to meet key goals. These conversations also help you understand how your leadership and other stakeholders are thinking about their business goals and the indicators they’re watching. 

Every conversation you have helps you get closer to figuring out the best way to demonstrate the impact of soft skills training

3. Prioritize action in your soft skills training. Help people know what to do.

Learning about soft skills is often interesting. We’ve all read and heard lots of fascinating content about soft skills and leadership, but how much of it actually changed our behaviors? How do employees move from learning about soft skills to actually doing the things that improve communication, productivity, and relationships at work?

The most effective soft skills training programs help employees connect the dots between concepts and the real actions they can do in their jobs. Then the next step is to help them do these actions regularly. 

What’s the payoff of this priority?

When employees understand what they need to do, they’re more likely to do it. Taking action is also part of learning any skill — even soft skills. When people take action, they discover for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. They improve faster. 

Another important benefit of prioritizing action is that it’s easier to gather and show data. When soft skills are understood as tangible actions, you can count how many actions were taken and determine how these actions made an impact. 

Start prioritizing today

As you develop or uplevel your soft skills training programs, think about how you can prioritize shorter programs covering the most-needed soft skills in your organization, and connect these skills to actions that make a difference. 

If you want to learn more about how to deliver soft skills training that makes a difference, schedule a demo with Verb today.

Find out how Verb can unlock your team’s full potential.