Human Beings Are Underrated: In a World of Automation, It’s Soft Skills That Differentiate
“It turns out human beings are underrated.”
That’s what Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said after “excessive automation” led to missed production goals for the second year running.
Musk discovered what a lot of CEOs around the world are also experiencing: that despite the efficiencies of automation, there are many things that computers simply can’t do. Computers can’t empathize or think critically. They don’t take risks. They can’t build culture, lead a team or write an email. The “can’t” list goes on and on.
These human-only capabilities often fall into a category that training calls “soft skills”. Softs skills are the abilities that help us innovate, communicate, problem solve, lead and develop trusted relationships (both with peers and with customers). And, although the name belies it, these skills are critical to building high-performing workforces and successful businesses.
The “soft skills” gap
But many organizations are experiencing a “soft skills” gap. This is especially true among companies that employ younger workers who have grown up in the age of technology. In fact, a recent report reveals that while 87% of recent graduates feel well prepared to hit the ground running after earning their diplomas, only half of hiring managers agree with them. Some of the skills hiring managers find lacking or absent are “soft skills” like critical thinking, problem solving, attention to detail, and writing proficiency. These employees understand how to build an SEO strategy against Google’s algorithms, but they can’t write an email. They can text emojis at the speed of light, but don’t know how to interact on a customer phone call.
Perhaps that’s why, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ “CEO Survey,” 77% of respondents believe that the biggest threat to their businesses stems from underdeveloped soft skills.
Soft Skills Training 101
But research shows that people can be effectively trained on soft skills. In fact, one recent study demonstrated that an investment in soft skills training could improve productivity by up to 20% and deliver a 258% net rate of return after 20 months
It’s clear that soft skill development delivers a significant punch, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. That’s because this type of training is:
Commonly conducted in person so it’s susceptible to some of the shortcomings of that delivery style – namely, poor engagement, low retention and high cost
- Hard to measure with traditional analytics tools like anecdotes and surveys
- Rarely tied to KPIs or ROI, so the c-suite often doesn’t recognize the importance of the training outcomes produced
Luckily, there are a lot of new learning technologies on the market that can help overcome these challenges. For example, learning departments are using AR/VR to deliver soft skill scenarios in a more engaging way. Similarly, performance feedback apps are delivering real-time performance assessments to workers immediately following an assignment or interaction – including those requiring soft skills.
Adaptive learning for soft skills
Companies are also beginning to explore adaptive learning technologies as an option for soft skill development. Adaptive learning platforms are a great addition to a company’s soft skills training toolkit and they can be leveraged in a variety of ways. For example:
Soft Skill Assessment – L&D departments can use an adaptive platform with an assessment-only feature – like our Snapshot tool – prior to an in-person training event to benchmark a workforce’s mastery of relevant soft skills. For example, with Snapshot, L&D departments can get a full readout of their workforce knowledge around any given subject that can inform a training needs assessment and future training focus. L&D can also use Snapshot post event to determine concrete knowledge gains as a result of the training.
Groundwork for In-Person Training – When L&D uses adaptive learning to deliver the soft skill content prior to an in-person event, they can make sure that employees enter the learning environment with a certain base level of knowledge. This means that in-person instructors don’t have to teach to the middle. Additionally, they’re free to focus workshop time on higher-order concepts and practice scenarios. Additionally, armed with this feedback loop, instructors can more finely tailor their training to the needs of employees.
Memory Booster – Post training, or even during an in-person training event, adaptive learning can act as a memory booster. By prompting employees to recall information, L&D can improve the knowledge retention of soft skill training (e.g. frequent recall signals to the brain “this information is important and I should remember it”).
Don’t underrate your humans. Instead, help them build their soft skills through effective and efficient tools proven to boost productivity and performance.
Ready to learn more about how your organization can incorporate Fulcrum’s content-agnostic, adaptive platform into its soft skills training mix? Or want to see a demo of our innovative Snapshot product? You’re just a couple clicks away from setting up a demo.