Four key steps to closing soft skills gaps

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Written by Stephanie Morgan on 14 August 2018

Identifying and closing soft skills gaps in the modern workplace is proving to be a real challenge. HR and L&D can’t rely solely on managers and even when they can, appraisals and assessments are often subjective. Traditional methods are no longer working so it’s time for a change – especially since the demand for soft skills is predicted to significantly increase by 2020.

So, I have put together four key steps for helping your organisation – from learners to leaders – identify and close soft skills gaps.

Career ownership – Me PLC

The way we approach our careers in 2018 is very different compared to five or 10 years ago – careers are a lot more fluid and there is no longer the expectation that the job you are currently in will be a job for life. This is where personal branding comes in – Me PLC – if there is no such thing as a job.

for life then it’s worth thinking about how we can brand ourselves and sell our skills, experiences and personalities to future employers.

So how can this help identify and close our learner’s soft skills gaps? Career ownership might be a key area in helping you to identify and close soft skills gaps in your organisation. If your learners start to think about their own personal brand, they are more likely to take responsibility for their own career development and will begin to think about gaps in their skills set.

When your learners are onboard with Me PLC you can encourage them to consider the following key areas that will help them develop their career and identify soft skills gaps at the same time: 

  • Subject matter expertise (SME) – what is your SME?
  • Leadership and management – what are your capabilities?
  • Business basics – do you have the core skills you need to succeed (e.g. time management)?
  • Resilience – how do you cope when things get difficult?

Support your managers

We all rely on our managers to help identify and close soft skills gaps in their teams, whether it’s through conversations in appraisals or picking up on shortfalls in job performance. Managers really are our allies, so it’s important that we help them to help their people apply learning and perform effectively.

Here are a few ways you can help alleviate the pressure and support your managers in closing soft skills gaps in their team(s):

Internal team of implementation specialists

Create a team of implementation specialists who support the transfer of learning in the workplace after the completion of a learning programme. This role could be performed by an L&D team, HR, or internal specialists.

Support action plans

Support the action plans or PDPs of your learners by pairing them with relevant learning solutions – this will take a significant amount of pressure off your managers.

Buddy up!

Create a buddy system for learners (including managers) so they can encourage and support each other in developing and deepening their learning and overall performance in the organisation.

Materials and job aids for reflection

Ensure your managers have the resources they need – such as materials and job aids – so they can to help their team apply learning more effectively.

Build management tribes

Management tribes are a great opportunity for L&D to support the learning of their managers. By pulling together a group of managers who are unified by a particular skill they want to develop, or a learning programme they have recently attended, you will help them improve their application of learning and overall understanding of the subject.

Below are some tips and approaches to help you build a successful management tribe within your organisation:

  • Focus on a specific challenge and/or application of skills
  • Use action learning sets to facilitate solutions to complex issues
  • Develop peer support
  • Build a regular and consistent community

Create leadership clubs

Leadership clubs can work in a similar way to management tribes – creating a peer group to support learning and aid learning transfer. The concept may be similar, but a successful leadership club should also aim to inspire vision and innovation by taking on a strategic and visionary approach itself.

This could include bringing in inspirational leaders from outside of the organisation or using storytelling to share innovations or best practices.

Get stuck in!

And finally – get stuck in! Why not get on the front line and identify areas you, as an L&D practitioner, can have a direct impact on helping close the soft skills gaps. From listening to recorded sales conversations to sitting in on team meetings. 


About the author

Stephanie Morgan is director of learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning



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