By: Amy Matthews, SPHR

Nevada is experiencing some impressive economic growth these days. While this is good for our economy, it does present some problems, such as our current labor shortage. One thing we hear over and over again is a cry for help – literally.

Once the help is hired, we again receive the distress call – training is needed!  Not just your typical training (how to use excel or run the cash register).  We are asked about soft skills.  

In a tough labor market, employees are sometimes promoted to management positions without any prior experience. They are good at their jobs, but unable to assume a leadership role once promoted. This is where the need for soft skills comes into play.

What, exactly, are soft skills?

By definition, soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”  In other words, effective communication.

Soft skills are mainly comprised of the following attributes, some of which are not that easy to teach (or learn):

  • Work Ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Critical Thinking
  • Attitude
  • Communication
  • Leadership

Let’s Consider These Examples

Think about Jane.  Jane is a stellar accountant – her numbers skill set is on point.  But, as a manager, she lacks the ability to correctly mold her team.  Her personality is abrasive, and she just upsets everyone. She frequently tells people, “If you’re not happy here, there’s the door!” Jane needs to learn to speak to people in a motivating manner, not a demeaning manner.

We also hear complaints about work ethic.   Gina shows up at 7:45am for her 8:00am shift.  She uses that 15 minutes to put her things away, grab a coffee, and get ready for the day.  She is ready to work at 8:00am.  Then we have Bob, who shows up at 8:00am on the dot, and then puts his things away, grabs his coffee, and starts work around 8:10-8:15am. We love Ginas.  The Bobs make most of us crazy.

Soft Skills Can Be Taught

The good news is, these are skills that can be taught. We can work with Jane and teach her to communicate more effectively. We can tell Bob that he is expected to be at his station, ready to work, at 8:00am.  We may have to say it more than once, and we may have to figure out what learning style the employee has (to make it stick), but it can be done.

When promoting people into management, nothing is more important than making sure they know how to be managers.  In addition to the usual rules and regulations, they need to know how to motivate, lead, coach, discipline, and advise their subordinates.

Managers with exemplary soft skills are a great asset to any company. If you find yourself promoting from within, include soft skills training as part of that process. A happy and productive staff goes a long way toward increasing the bottom line.