I never understood the term, soft skills. Soft skills are essentially personal attributes that help you get along, and effectively interact, with others. These are not easy to learn and definitely not fluffy, so why are they called soft? Apparently, it dates back to a very in-depth military study from the 1970’s. I won’t bore you with the details, but to make a long story short, it’s because soft skills are really hard to measure, and they are never really mastered. So soft and not concrete. People tend to learn soft skills over time and then learn to hone them to fit a situation. Hard skills, on the other hand, are concrete skills that can be measured and something that another person can witness and review.
Soft & Hard Skills in the Security and Safety Industries
The electronic security and life safety industry focuses very heavily on hard skills, which makes sense, considering the technical and code compliant components of the work. ESA’s National Training School has focused on teaching hard skills since the 1980’s and has filled a much-needed demand for quality installation training. However, in recent years we have been asked by some members if we would consider offering more ‘people skill’ topics, as they wanted a single source for all their training needs. Initially, developing these topics seemed pretty daunting as our pool of subject matter experts weren’t experts in developing training on how to be a good employee. However, through the development of ESA’s Training as a Service employee growth program, we discovered training providers who had extensive soft skills libraries. Through these partnerships we are happy to announce 11 new courses that can help employees learn to enhance their interpersonal skills. Courses include:
- Customer Service – 2 hrs
- Customer Support – 2 hrs
- Civility in the Workplace – 3 hrs
- Creative Problem Solving – 2 hrs
- Time Management – 2 hrs
- Conflict Resolution – 2 hrs
- Diversity in the Workplace – 2 hrs
- Goal Setting and Getting Things Done – 1 hr
- Handling a Difficult Customer – 2 hrs
- Harassment in the Workplace – 2 hrs
- Violence in the Workplace – 1 hr
Why should you invest in soft skill training for your employees?
After all, developing these skills are often overlooked by companies, in place of technical proficiency. A perfect reason might be that these skills (critical thinking, communications, goal setting, etc.) are now being looked at as “power skills” by some of the most successful companies in the world. After interviewing 400 Fortune 500 CEOs, a study done by The Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that 75% of long-term job success depends upon soft skills mastery and only 25% on technical skills. Another fascinating study was recently released by Google. They announced the findings from an internal study that looked across teams to determine the most innovative and productive groups within the company. The outcome shocked many by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
The lack of soft skills in your employee base can really impact your company’s success. During the installation or servicing of the system, your technical team has a lot of interaction with your customers. You might have a brilliant technician but if they lack communication or customer service, your company image will be harmed beyond your control. Another factor where soft skills have an impact is efficiency and teamwork. If your team members are not collaborating at a high level, or not interacting on projects, the ability for your company to get a job done efficiently and innovatively will be hindered. Investing time and money in soft skill training for your team has timeless payoffs, as the skills they learn don’t expire as technology changes. In fact, soft skills could become even more essential as technology continues its rapid evolution. In 2018, billionaire technology investor, Mark Cuban made a prediction that many people found shocking: in ten years, “a liberal arts degree in philosophy will be worth more than a traditional programming degree.” Why? He thinks that with the advancement of AI and automation, the job market will transform so that the skill of how to think in a big picture way and better collaborate will become more valuable. In 2020, it is even more evident that his prediction is becoming validated.
To learn more about the latest Soft Skills training ESA has to offer visit courses.esaweb.org and click the CEU offerings.