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5 Key Steps to Build Soft Skills in the Workplace

Apr 2, 2021
Demi Powell
Core Spirit member since Sep 4, 2019
Reading time 6 min.

The planet’s spinning with change and chatbots, and businesses are reacting by creating the soft skills that will keep them up to date. The best thing is, it’s functioning! Workers with high emotional intelligence (EQ) are better performers, and organizations that encourage soft skills like collaboration are outperforming those that don’t.

So, you’ll just ensure that all new employees are soft skill experts, correct? Well, not exactly. You see, a recent research by LinkedIn showed that almost 60% of hiring managers in the U.S. struggle to find employees with soft skills. The good news is that improving soft skills in the workplace is possible, and we’re going to tell you how.

How to develop soft skills in the workplace

Building soft skills is a (often awkward) process, because employees must first do a little self-reflection before they’ll understand what soft skills practicing they need. This can be hard, but also rewarding. Let’s see how to enhance soft skills at work with a few easy techniques.

1. Create a learning mindset

2. Foster self-reflection

3. Expand knowledge and understanding

4. Give opportunities for practice

5. Provide feedback, often

Ready to take a closer look? Let’s go!

1. Create a learning mindset

Building soft skills like resilience, emotional intelligence and agility is a good way to make your workforce change-ready. But first, how can you prepare employees for the very personal alteration that comes with learning soft skills?

Ultimately, you can’t make employees to be self-aware, or to accept their ‘softer’ shortcomings. And you particularly can’t make them to engage in practice. What you can do, though, is to explain the significance of soft skills in the workplace.

Help employees realise that soft skills will enhance their performance, and that soft skills can be acquired. Give them easy examples of soft skills in the workplace, like active listening, and ask them to think how these skills affect their employee experience. This will open their minds to the soft skills training to come.

2. Foster self-reflection

You won’t know how to enhance soft skills in the workplace until you know which soft skills need enhancement. So, before you begin assigning training to employees, it’s essential to find out which soft skills development training each employee needs most.

Encourage employees to reflect on the soft skills they’re already good at, and to be honest with themselves about the skills that could use some work. Often, a combination of self-assessment and 360-degree feedback is the best way to find out employees’ soft skills gaps.

3. Expand knowledge and understanding

Sometimes, all it takes is a little learning to get employees to understand that they aren’t being as sociable, communicative, or positive as they can be. Seminars and training programs offered at local events or conventions can be a good way to teach employees what soft skills development is, and why it matters.

Or, if your employees are tech-savvy Millennials, remote workers, or often on the go, provide them with online training.

4. Give opportunities for practice

Practice! This is how to improve soft skills in employees. After all, it would be useless to develop employees’ collaboration skills and then isolate their work responsibilities. Instead, give them a chance to take their new skills for a test drive.

Outdoor retreats are a fun and risk-free environment to practice soft skills like teamwork, collaboration and communication. Opt-in assignments give employees the opportunity to practice problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

5. Provide feedback, often

When your employees are on track towards developing their soft skills in the workplace, the best way for you to help them as a leader or manager is by providing periodic feedback.

Soft skills enhancement is a very slow process, because it needs a change of personality and habit, rather than a change of knowledge. So, gently support your employees on the right path and don’t punish them when they steer away every now and then. After some time, they should be well on their way towards possessing a set of effective soft skills.

If you’re not sure how to identify soft skills in practice, don’t worry. We’ll be discussing that next.

What are soft skills in the workplace?

Unless you’ve just found the internet, you’ve perhaps heard of soft skills before. The question is, do you know how to identify them, both in others and yourself? Soft skills are about how you think and act rather than what you know, and there’s many of them! Here are some of those that we believe are pretty essential for the workplace.

1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

This is all about understanding your own emotions and the emotions of others. While an employee with low EQ may openly criticize a colleague in a meeting, a high-EQ employee would wait until after the meeting to give criticism in private, and avoid embarrassing their colleague. (The second employee probably had emotional intelligence training!)

2. Collaboration

High-performance teams are often characterized by collaboration and teamwork. This is why employees have to learn to accept others’ perspectives, listen to feedback and delegate work.

3. Confidence

Confidence is visible in everything you do and say – your appearance, your behavior, even the work you submit and the simple ways in which you hold yourself. It can be simple to confuse confidence for arrogance, but the line is very clear: confidence is the ability to be aware of one’s own abilities and flaws; arrogance is when you exaggerate your abilities and deny your flaws.

4. Adaptability

Anyone who follows the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage is for sure going to struggle in any contemporary workplace. Adaptability is being able to say “Yes!” when a manager asks you to use new software, perform a task that you’ve never done before, or take on any new challenge.

5. Listening

Building soft skills in the workplace relies completely on this. Listening may sound easy, but it’s difficult in practice. You’ve met the guy who interrupts you mid-sentence. How about the woman who waits for you to stop talking just so that she can begin telling her own story? Without true listening, other skills like collaboration and adaptability are impossible to achieve.

If you’re wondering how any of these skills make a difference in the workplace, go on!

Why are soft skills in the workplace important?

Building soft skills at work is crucial for so many reasons. In general, studies have demonstrated that employees with soft skills training are 12% more productive than those without them. This translates into a whopping 256% ROI for companies!

If that doesn’t convince you, then perhaps the results from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report will. Over 90% of respondents rated soft skills as crucial for promoting employee retention, improving leadership, and building a meaningful culture.

But developing soft skills in the workplace also helps companies to avoid costs, not just make money. Why? Because when soft skills are lacking, employees are prone to conflict, suffer from low self-confidence, feel unheard and misunderstood, and ultimately, become unhappy.

Do you know what the consequences of unhappy employees are? Increased absenteeism, low performance, poor customer service, decreased quality work, and ultimately, lower profit.


Developing soft skills in the workplace isn’t a simple task, so is it necessary? Of course. A workforce rich in soft skills is like a brand new car engine functioning at maximum efficiency. And keep in mind, like any car engine, soft skills can gradually decrease over time if left unattended. With ongoing corporate training, you can leverage soft skills for workplace success.

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