Soft skills are more important than ever in the hybrid workplace

hybrid workplace
© Volodymyr Melnyk

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai, believes that soft skills are crucial for remote and flexible roles, and offers advice on how to move up the career ladder into positions that better utilise individuals’ abilities

A radical shift is happening right now amongst the workforces of developed nations across the planet. As employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers, have surged to an all-time high in the UK, with available posts surpassing one million for the first time in July this year. Clearly, something is amiss.

One theory is that various lockdowns gave workers ample time to think about their career paths and re-evaluate their goals. Crucially, some may have also considered what is missing from their current role.

These trends should provide businesses with some food for thought, too. As workplace transitions unfold, businesses must reassess how well they are catering to employee requirements, to reduce the likelihood that their staff leave to seek pastures new. While some workers may be looking for permanent remote work, others may be hankering after a role with new opportunities to learn and develop.

Businesses must act to ensure that their employees feel valued and supported in the shifting workplace. So, where should organisations begin with making a change?

Start with soft skills

First and foremost, training managers must re-assess their learning initiatives, allocating more time and regard for soft skills. Particularly in remote settings, these skills have seldom been a priority over the previous 19 months or so, as staff have grown accustomed to working in isolation. Even before the pandemic, identifying and developing these traits within the workforce was no simple task, as soft skills like leadership can be difficult to measure or quantify. This makes the task of assessing progress even more complex, particularly in the hybrid workplace, where staff will have fewer opportunities to convene in person.

Communication has been another often-overlooked skill in the shift to remote work. Indeed, research from Soffos earlier this year revealed that over a third of businesses said they experienced communication issues when working remotely, resulting in wasted time and resources. It’s understandable therefore, as workers have become accustomed to new working practices, many prefer to work from within their own ‘bubble’ – consequently many may fail to keep co-workers adequately informed about workstreams and tasks.

While this is one of the more unfortunate consequences of remote work, it needn’t be an issue long-term. Instead, businesses would do well to rebuild the soft skills lost in the throes of the pandemic.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to L&D

Of course, training requirements will differ from team to team. Every employee’s needs will vary, and workers will all bring their own experiences and skills to the table. While qualities such as leadership may come naturally to some individuals, others may need some more time, practice, and mentorship throughout their careers. As such, conducting a skills and shortfalls audit amongst teams, assessing every member of the company should bring about meaningful change.

Investing in technologies that can provide ample data to support the development of personalised training schemes would put organisations ahead of their competitors. Programs powered by AI, for example, will be able to monitor staff responses to questionnaires, as well as their interaction with various online training courses. For instance, if a worker believes that they could improve their confidence or active listening skills and have a history of interacting with leadership-based courses, this is something that would be flagged by the system. Training managers can then use this information with real purpose to develop employees effectively.  

As with any training scheme, a blanket approach will seldom provide the desired outcome – targeted solutions are always best.

Adapting mentorship for the hybrid workplace

One of the greatest casualties of the switch to remote work has been the loss of opportunities for workers to meet with each other in-person, so that they can exchange ideas and foster meaningful connections. Younger colleagues may be concerned that they are losing out on crucial opportunities to learn from more experienced team members.

However, all is not lost. Even in remote workplace settings, individuals can still find the time to nurture these relationships, whether this is by virtually remotely ‘shadowing’ senior members of staff in important Zoom meetings to observe their skills directly, or by more general catchups between employees and their mentees. After all, interactions don’t necessarily need to occur in person to be productive, and digital communication tools are perfectly capable of providing the means for important mentorship schemes to take place.

Put simply, managers must not let soft skills fall by the wayside in remote and hybrid settings – after all, these important skills are vital for career progression and staff satisfaction. With the right sort of technology by their sides, I have no doubt that businesses can expertly manage this transition.

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