Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soft Skills - Don't Take it Lightly

I have been in this field long enough to know that soft skills training does not get any respect from the client, the learner and the vendor. I seriously feel we are making a big mistake by taking this domain very lightly. Here's why...

Myth: Designing technical training is far more challenging than soft skills training. 
Technical training is challenging because of the content itself. You as an ID come from a completely different world and so you need to understand a whole lot of complicated stuff before you design the training. But, the challenge with soft skills training is to make it work. You may design a fun program that the learner may forget as soon as they are out of the classroom. But, how do you make the learning stick? How do you make an impact on their psyche? How do you change attitudes and behavior? You decide now which is more challenging.

Myth: Soft skills does not require any customization. Communication skills is communication skills regardless of who it is for.
What is customization? Customization is ensuring that learning happens in a defined context, which is typically the learner's reality. While I do believe that age old games have their space, I do think that customized cases/activities are far more effective. Training is a very common occurrence these days. You need newer and more effective ways of getting a message across. Case studies, games, group discussions can be designed to bring out effective learning. High impact learning makes the learner think.

Communication skills for a team leader is very different from communication skills for a CEO. Telephone etiquettes is very different for a receptionist vs for a call center executive. Presentation skills is very different for advertising than for design engineers. I don't believe in mixing a few existing slides and customizing it on the floor. I have seen this happen to and trust me it doesn't work. The minute you go with customized learning, the learner trusts you. Why? Because you have taken the effort to understand his world and so, he will help you through this process of transferring learning.

My dad keeps asking me 'How can a person who has spent 0 hours in the field, come and tell me how I am supposed to work?' While this opens several other debates, I think if the trainer had understood my dad's work environment, he wouldn't have let on that he has 0 experience in the field.

Myth: Embarrass the learner to make an impact and see the difference. It requires a highly skilled trainer with great charisma to get away with whatever they say. Otherwise, it requires a very good understanding of how your learners will react to this technique. These techniques may work wonderfully or scar the learning experience. I remember the trainer was conducting roles plays and he was being very rude. A learner got up and said 'Sir, we are not actors.' Therefore, the impact was negative and I doubt whether people bothered to listen after that. Soft skills are such that everyone has their own take on it. There is a lot of gray here. Therefore, you have to allow that space for the learner to think. And, make a convincing case of why what you are saying is relevant to them.

Myth: Theories define personalities. A trainer was explaining some model. A learner got up and asked why? Guess what the trainer said? 'Because that's is the way it is. This theory is age old and has been discussed by several experts.' Theories are just theories and are pretty much useless in soft skill programs. People don't buy the argument that some great soul said it so believe it! Give them a more solid reason to believe. This can happen only if they can see the trends in their daily experiences.

These are all the things people get wrong when they approach soft skills training. Make soft skill programs activity based. Let people learn from each other. Don't use ancient techniques. Try innovative, thought provoking stuff.  Soft skills is not an easy domain. Even learner who need these skills think they already have it. It requires the facilitator to bring about a self-realization and reflection on oneself.


Holier said...


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hemcoined said...

Training is a very common occurrence these days. You need newer and more effective ways of getting a message across.
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Ashish Shandilya said...

Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
Regards,Ashish Soft Skill Training