Imagine this:

  • You’ve just watched a great video on leadership from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. 
  • Or you’ve heard a podcast with Brene Brown describing what it takes to be vulnerable at work. 
  • Or you’ve attended a workshop on giving the right level of feedback to team members.

You feel inspired. You feel clear on what to do. Leadership makes perfect sense. 

And then reality sets in. You may become tongue-tied when it’s time to give feedback.
Or you might seem tired or vaguely annoyed rather than vulnerable. 

Employees have those moments too. And it’s that gap — between a speaker’s message and most people’s reality — that creates feelings of hopelessness, distrust, or cynicism when it comes to developing soft skills (or power skills, as they’re sometimes called). 

But the truth is: Satya Nadella did not become a good leader by watching videos and answering a few follow-up questions. Neither will your employees. 

Something important is missing from this learning.

What is this missing ingredient for soft skills training? 

Before we talk about what’s missing, let’s review the main ingredients. The most effective soft-skills training platforms use blended learning with two broad learning modes:

  1. Things learners do independently 
  2. Things learners do with an instructor or other people (e.g., coaches, peers)

The reason both elements are necessary is rooted in learning differences. 

  • Some people learn better on their own, with plenty of time to process. 
  • Others learn better from a teacher or in conversation with peers. 

But that doesn’t mean that each person’s optimal way of learning stays the same. How people learn best constantly fluctuates, based on many factors. 

Here’s an example. Early in your career, you may have learned a lot from a trainer in a workshop on communication. It was helpful to have a knowledgeable trainer present new-to-you concepts, answer questions from the group, and engage in role play. 

However, a few years later, a similar workshop might seem like a waste of time. Here’s why: 

  • You know a lot of the information being presented. 
  • You get impatient listening to the beginners’ questions. 
  • You worry you’re wasting time when you could be getting work done. 

But you probably aren’t a perfect communicator and still want to grow your communication skills. You may just need a different form of learning: perhaps a quick online activity where you can skim what you already know and focus on tips you’re seeing for the first time. 

This is just one example of how people learn differently in different situations. That means the learning needs to be flexible. 

Flexibility is often the missing ingredient in soft skills learning 

The two main elements of blended learning — 1. independent learning, and 2. learning with others — must be flexible enough to provide true value for every learner’s time investment. 

So what does flexibility in blended learning for soft skills look like?

On the independent learning side…
Flexibility is often discussed in terms of timing. Examples: Learn in the flow of work. Your employees can choose when to learn. Sure, timing is flexible with online learning, but that’s true of all online content. 

Online learning for soft skills can be flexible in other ways too. Here are some questions to ask to understand how flexible online learning is:

  • Does the online learning include lots of long chunks of text or lengthy videos?
    When learning is long in this way, it’s hard for a learner to move through it quickly and spot what’s helpful for them. It can be a burden for a learner to sift through the information they already know. 
  • Does the online learning only present information — or does it help learners figure out how to use skills now?
    Too often, people already know plenty of information about a soft skill like feedback. But they struggle with how to do this skill in their real work situations. The best online learning bridges the gap between knowing and doing.
  • Does the online learning help people take action — or does it just suggest taking action?
    To master a skill, learners have to do the skill. Lots of online learning explains this concept but stops there. Then the learner is left to figure out what to do next and follow up on their own. Without support for action, learners often give up. 

For learning in-person or with other people… 
Here are a few of the most popular types of social learning, with things to think about in terms of flexibility. 

Led by an instructor, facilitator, or speaker
This kind of learning can be really great — especially if you have a superstar facilitator. But that isn’t necessarily flexible. 

  • In these situations, a lot depends on the instructor/facilitator/speaker. It’s hard for one person to be a good match for everyone in the room (based on personality, ways of communicating, etc.).
  • Even when you have someone great, the learning may provide more inspiration than the actual direction for using a skill on-the-job. 

A coach can support an individual to practice and master a skill. Coaching is highly flexible because it’s tailored to an individual. 

  • However, coaching is expensive and takes a lot of time.
  • Also, coaching can be inconsistent among employees, with people learning different frameworks and techniques. 

Peer learning 
This kind of learning offers the biggest opportunity to build community, with flexibility.

  • People learn from one another, not experts. It can be more helpful to talk to a few people who are in situations like yours, instead of one amazing expert.  
  • People take turns facilitating. The responsibility doesn’t fall on one person, and everyone gets to practice this important skill. 
  • It’s less expensive than hiring speakers, facilitators, or coaches.

One more great thing about peer learning is: It builds stronger relationships. Through discussions about soft skills, like building trust or listening, you move beyond just getting work done. Learning together in this way is flexible enough to help everyone — from brand new employees to long-term leaders — understand one another in new ways. 

How Verb Offers Flexibility 

Verb helps organizations deliver blended soft skills learning programs that are valuable for employees. With the Verb platform, learners:

  • Figure out how to use soft skills in their current job situations through Verb’s short activities. 
  • Choose small actions to try, and then receive support to follow up. 
  • Engage in peer learning circles to learn from each other, with Verb’s discussion guides.

To learn more, schedule a demo today and see what the Verb platform has to offer.

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