June 14 2021

How Leaders Improve Employee Productivity with Personal Development and Soft Skills

Let's start off with what may seem like a somewhat obvious statement: personal development is an essential part of personal growth. But what exactly is personal development? Personal development is basically any skill that we want to develop with the goal of improving ourselves.

Why is this important for companies? Now, possibly more than ever, companies need to start treating their employees as people outside of their professions. A Social Market Foundation survey revealed that happy employees are 20% more productive than employees who are unhappy.

One way to increase happiness in the workforce is to invest in personal development. When leaders invest in the personal development of their employees, they're investing in creating a positive work environment within their companies. They are also showing their team members that they care about them as humans and not just as employees.

If leaders feel frustrated about a lack of interest their teams may show in personal development, it is worth remembering that this lack of interest may come from the fact that employees do not have a sense of direction. People should first spend some time understanding their own personal values, needs, strengths, and when they have a better understanding of themselves in these areas, they will have increased focus.

4 Ways Leaders Can Provide Personal Development Opportunities to Their Employees

  • Ask and listen: The next time you have a one on one, ask 2 simple questions: What skills are you looking to develop? How can I help you grow? These may seem like simple questions (and they are) but they are also extremely powerful.
  • Encourage personal goals as well as professional goals: Going back to the introductory paragraph where we advised that it’s very much worth your while to treat employees as humans and not just employees; companies sometimes tend to focus on professional goals (which makes sense, of course), but if you offer to help your employees develop personal skills also, it becomes a win-win situation: if an employee feels their personal goals are as important to the company as their professional goals, this may result in increased employee engagement = increased productivity. After all, doesn’t everyone want to work for a company that actually cares about their development?
  • Train and encourage managers to be mentors: Train managers to regularly explore how and why a staff member wants to develop. A helpful question could be something like, “In the next 6 to 12 months, how can you become a better version of yourself so you can move towards your personal career goals?” Managers can facilitate their staff’s development and help open doors.
  • Offer Innovative Learning Experiences: Employees are more likely to get excited about personal development opportunities when they are innovative, entertaining and relevant. Mix things up by offering a variety of interesting and engaging learning experiences. For example, this may include making use of rich and relevant authentic material to bring fun and engagement into each learning experience, increasing motivation and resulting in greater success. Or it could be leveraging technology to facilitate learning at a time, place and pace designed to fit busy professionals' schedules. Or it could be interactive exercises where the learning concepts introduced can be readily applied in context.

Soft skills and Why They Have Become More Important

Soft skills are often defined as personal attributes required to work well with others and are most definitely a critical factor for success. While it can seem like you either have them or you don’t, the truth is that soft skills can be learned and improved (some more easily than others). According to data from LinkedIn, 92% of talent professionals said that soft skills were just as important, if not more important, than hard skills. These are the skills that won’t be automated or phased out by advances in technology. As more and more job activities become automated, soft skills which cannot be replicated just yet by machines have become more essential. In 2017, Deloitte reported that "soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030".

Here at Connect with Language some of our most popular soft skills courses are based on critical thinking, communication, leadership, time management, teamwork, resilience, stress tolerance and mindfulness, while we also infuse our language courses with these. Our learning catalogue also covers a wide variety of essential skills such as emotional intelligence, active learning and learning strategies.

Hiring and Retaining Employees For The Future Of Work

Assessing soft skills should be an essential part of any hiring process for potential employees and contractors. Soft skills strengthen other skills and abilities, and teams with these skills will be able to adapt more quickly and easily as the future of work continues to evolve. Thus, it has become increasingly important that soft skills are assessed not only in the hiring process but also on an ongoing basis, where an environment is created for employees to be able to access resources where they can improve their soft skills. The above-mentioned Deloitte report also mentioned that hiring employees with more soft skills could increase revenue by more than €60,000.

Given the importance of soft skills in improving business performance, there is a need to focus more on soft skills; understand how we can measure them and ensure employees are receiving effective soft skills training.

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