Soft skills have become an area of increased focus for organizations. The global Covid-19 pandemic has seen companies switching from face-to-face training to online delivery. In a sense, increasingly digital workplaces and hybrid working arrangements have emphasized the need for organizations to consciously hone and apply these skills to create and maintain inclusive, engaging, sustainable working environments.

Now organizations are facing the decision of whether to go back to in-person training, or to keep soft skills training online. We’re going to look at what these soft skills are, and the benefits and challenges of online and face-to-face soft skills training.

What are Soft Skills and why are they Important?

Development of soft skills is about personal growth as much as it is about organizational gain – from developing emotional intelligence, to improving communication, increasing adaptability, and learning to motivate yourself and others. These are the skills that help us build trust, collaborate, and innovate. They are the skills that influence organizational culture and that help create environments in which new employees thrive and more seasoned employees stick around. 

It’s important to identify the soft skills that you want to prioritize to support organizational goals before designing your courses. Soft skills training might include courses on developing skills such as workplace communication and empathy, time management, personal branding, collaboration, organization, coaching, mindfulness, stress management, decision-making, critical thinking, problem-solving. 

These are also skills that contribute to personal health and wellbeing outside of work environments, because they are tools that can be used, and are helpful, in every area of people’s lives. They are also core skills required of leaders, so, by investing in developing these skills, you are equipping your workforce for long-term success. 

A company that invests in soft as well as hard skills training is likely to be one that understands that the growth and development of its people is directly linked to its success as an organization. 

Can you Learn Soft Skills Online?

Delivering face-to-face training can be costly and time consuming. Online learning is undoubtedly more efficient and scalable. However, whilst online tools are undoubtedly fantastic for sharing information and transferring knowledge, a significant part of honing soft skills lies in practical application, and there are limits to what digital learning can achieve when it comes to putting the training into practice and really embedding these soft skills. This is where online learning falls short. A significant part of honing soft skills is in the practice of their application. 

More recently, companies with bigger budgets have been developing Virtual Reality (VR) based training to help embed learning. VR offers learners the opportunity to practice what they have learned, as though in the real world. However, as this technology is not available to every company, we need to find other ways of helping learners to really absorb the skills that they are learning about.

Is Blended Learning the Answer?

Experience has proven that online learning can and does play a significant role in soft skills training. The generous availability and popularity of online courses alone is testament to this fact. 

This blended approach to soft skills training is being favored by companies such as Amazon Europe, who, having rapidly reinstated face to face soft skill training following COVID, are actively exploring what the optimal blend of on and offline training is. 

Including digital elements in your learning strategy saves money. Sharing information with employees for them to read before training sessions and meetings so that people come to these already prepared, cuts down the amount of face-to-face training needed and, therefore, reduces cost. It’s not just about cost though. VR training environments also require the know-how of a technician  to operate effectively so they require in-house know-how of their own.

So, unless you have a VR technician at your fingertips and can afford to design and implement VR courses, the practical element of the learning needs, ideally, to happen in a room, with other people. For these reasons, some companies are choosing to maintain online resources for knowledge transfer, but opt for in-person training to embed the skills, making sure that learners are equipped with practical as well as theoretical knowledge.

If you would like to learn more about designing online, mobile-based resources to help your workforce develop essential soft skills, get in touch with a member of our expert team now.