No two people in a workplace are similar. We all have our individual personalities and character traits. In a workplace, as in life, communication is extremely important. It is essential to improve inter-personal relationships, interact, connect, make others feel comfortable and valued, and enable an environment that is supportive and not judgemental.
Interdependence Between Soft Skills And Workplace Well-Being
Soft skills such as interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and communication are critical for the sustenance of a healthy and inclusive workplace culture. Employee well-being and organizational wellness are largely dependent on the soft skills of an organization’s leaders and managers, without which, one could be inviting mental well-being challenges for his/her team or company. Employees often feel stressed out when communication channels are scarce – they end up feeling disillusioned, isolated, undervalued and in some cases, even bullied.
COVID-19 has added to our woes. Now, as most of us are working from home, soft skills have become extremely important. Communicating things clearly and in a timely manner, hearing each other out, being there for your team, being empathetic when someone is facing any issues at home – we cannot stress enough on the importance of all these things. What used to be a two-minute conversation across the table now ends up being a 10-minute conversation over a call. It was easier to seek help if you got stuck when you were in office – all you had to do was walk up to your team mate and ask. However, that is not possible now and beyond a point, we all get tired of phone calls and video chats. Being confined to our homes, adds to our anxiety and frustration of not being able to receive quick help. Given the current global situation, soft skills are and will be extremely important, be it to keep your workforce motivated and happy, or to ensure their overall well-being.
Soft Skills Essential In Keeping A Team Together
Ability to listen
In the words of the American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes, “The art of conversation lies in listening.” Nothing could be truer. The 80:20 rule of active listening can come in handy here. Listen in for 80% of the time and speak for 20%. Give your employees a patient hearing and try to understand their concerns. Encourage people to speak up and voice their opinions and worries. Time is valuable and when you give someone your time and attention, that person will feel valued as well.
Like most company values, this one should be passed top-down too. The leaders and managers in an organization should lead by example. Own up to your decisions. If you want credit for success, you should also be ready to accept your mistakes. Tell your employees that it’s okay to make mistakes, learn from them and bounce back stronger. If you make a promise, deliver on it. If you say you will do something, make sure you see it through. This will help build trust.
Be self-aware – give some time to yourself to understand how you are feeling and gauge the impact your behaviour can have on others around you. Emotional intelligence builds resilience and is critical for mental health. Be kind to yourself and to others. Ask your team members, “How are you feeling today?” and hear them out. Sometimes, we all need to pause. Do give your teammates the time to unwind and the space to tinker with things that keeps their mind fresh.
We all fight our own battles and you might never know what your team member is going through. We have varying levels of resistance to stress and pressure. Do bear in mind that each employee is unique in his/her own way. Be open to different opinions and perspectives. If they are going through a tough time, be it personally or professionally, try to help them out to the best of your ability. Create awareness about the various employee well-being programs that your organization offers and encourage people to reach out and seek help.
How Can An Organization Help?
Organizations can facilitate reskilling and upskilling, albeit in a planned manner. To start with, it would be important to assess the soft skill gap, and would require HR teams to create a framework, codify soft skills and define evaluation criteria. In collaboration with learning and development (L&D) teams, a training portfolio can be created. To ensure efficacy, a mix of training, online courses, job aids and peer coaching, can be included.
Alongside, it would also be important to incentivize people and offer rewards so that they feel encouraged to start their learning journey and keep at it. You can offer something that shows their progress and recognizes the effort they are putting in. Something as simple as a set of badges, offered incrementally, after completing each stage of a training, can also help boost morale and offer public recognition. According to Skill Survey, 77% employers believe that soft skills are as important as hard skills and 67% of HR managers will hire candidates with strong soft skills even if their hard skills are weak. From an organizational perspective, training the current workforce won’t be enough; new talent joining the team should be up to speed too. Overall, it would be important for enterprises to hire wisely, train, assess and upskill the workforce to ensure employee well-being and organizational wellness.