You know that employee soft skills are crucial — but did you know that proactively training soft skills in your organization actually brings measurable business value? In this post, we explore how soft skills impact key business metrics.
When it comes to learning and development initiatives, companies typically tend to focus on hard skills. However, training soft skills brings huge business value — and it’s not as difficult as you might think.
There’s a vast body of research showing how soft skills directly and indirectly impact a company’s success, having a major impact on things like productivity, innovation, employee retention, and even revenue.
Are you ready to discover the surprising value of making soft skills a key part of your in-house training efforts? Then keep reading.
What are soft skills, and why are they so important in today’s workplace?
According to Oxford Languages, soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”
In the workplace, we rely on soft skills for communication and collaboration, for building relationships with our colleagues, for problem-solving, managing conflict, and much more.
Unlike hard skills, soft skills are not job-specific or unique to certain tasks; they’re universal, and can be transferred across different roles and contexts. You can read more about the difference between hard and soft skills in this article.
Ultimately, soft skills are what differentiate us from machines. They’re a way of thinking and being, and they are said to underpin emotional intelligence — “a type of intelligence that involves the ability to process emotional information and use it in reasoning and other cognitive activities” (as per the APA dictionary of psychology).
Soft skills haven’t always been high on the list of priorities when it comes to hiring and training. But the world of work is changing, bringing the ever-increasing importance of soft skills to the fore.
With the rise of remote work, continuing globalization, and the slow but steady shift towards automation, skills like communication, empathy, problem-solving, and creativity are critical for navigating the modern workplace and running a successful business.
As an employer, manager, or HR professional, you already know the role that soft skills play in ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of things. But did you know that providing soft skills training for your employees actually has proven, measurable business value?
Research shows that, when you proactively nurture soft skills within your organization, you can benefit from:
- Increased revenue
- Enhanced productivity
- Higher employee retention rates
- Better internal mobility
- Improved employee wellbeing and workplace culture
Let’s take a closer look at the business value of soft skill development now.
The business value and benefits of providing soft skills training for your employees
1. Soft skills provide a revenue boost
There are several studies which prove that soft skills are good for the bottom line.
One Deloitte study found that improving soft skills in the workplace can increase a company’s revenue by more than $90,000 (based on an increase to the average Australian business revenue of $3 million). This is due, in part, to the productivity boost afforded by soft skills (which we’ll cover in the next section).
It can also be directly attributed to soft skills such as creativity and problem-solving, which are crucial for innovation. Innovation is a known revenue driver, with one study finding that businesses that regularly innovate generate $4 million more in revenue than their less innovation-capable counterparts.
Another study conducted by Gallup found that employees who work at companies that invest in communication, coaching, and personal development programs are 35% more engaged, resulting in a 21% increase in profitability for the business.
2. Soft skills enhance workplace productivity
It almost goes without saying that soft skills like communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving save time and enhance productivity. There are also several studies to quantify this.
One study conducted by Boston College, Harvard, and the University of Michigan found that training employees in certain soft skills boosted productivity by 12%. Another study of over 1,000 manufacturing plants in the UK found that differences in employees’ soft skill levels accounted for 3% of the total factor productivity gap between top and bottom performing companies in the study.
In the same study, a survey of over 1,000 managers and employees in Australia found that employees who are able to effectively leverage soft skills such as teamwork are 3% more productive — and worth almost $2,000 more per year to the business — compared to their peers who do not utilize such soft skills.
3. Providing soft skills training helps to reduce employee turnover
In addition to increasing productivity and boosting revenue, training your employees in soft skills can help to reduce employee turnover.
According to a LinkedIn report, 89% of recruiters said that, when a hire doesn’t work out, it’s due to a lack of soft skills. Providing soft skills training and coaching can help to address these skill gaps from the get-go, equipping both new and existing employees with the soft skills they need to succeed.
Another LinkedIn study found that 94% of employees said they are more likely to stay at a company who invests in their learning and development. This is especially pertinent for Gen Z and Millennials, a quarter of whom cited learning as the most important factor in making them happy at work.
With employee retention at an all-time low across many locations and sectors, nurturing your existing teams and holding on to top talent must be a high priority for companies. It seems that soft skills training may hold the key!
4. Soft skills enable better internal mobility
In keeping with the topic of employee retention, soft skills also facilitate internal mobility.
In a report by iCIMS Hiring Insights, 94% of HR professionals believed that employees with strong soft skills are more likely to be promoted than those who, despite having more role or industry experience, lack important soft skills.
What’s more, almost all of the skills that are deemed most important for leaders and managers are soft skills — with things like empathy, creativity, active listening, and flexibility coming in at the top of the list. So, if you proactively nurture and train such skills among your employees, you’ll likely find it much easier to fill leadership roles internally.
Ultimately, training soft skills in-house can lighten the hiring load by helping to promote internal mobility, developing a culture of strong leaders, and holding on to top talent.
5. Soft skills foster employee well-being and create a better company culture
Last but certainly not least, soft skills play a critical role in nurturing employee well-being and fostering a positive workplace culture.
One of the most important aspects of a strong company culture is psychological safety. Psychological safety is defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career” and “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected.”
Not only is psychological safety essential for your employees’ well-being, it’s also recognized as a key factor in reducing employee turnover and enabling innovative, high-performing teams — both of which have an impact on the bottom line.
Perhaps not surprisingly, soft skills are at the center of psychological safety. Research by McKinsey shows that leaders can increase psychological safety by demonstrating specific behaviors, including consultative and supportive leadership, open communication, caring about others’ well-being, and being open to giving and receiving feedback. All of these behaviors are underpinned by soft skills.
In nurturing soft skills within your organization, you can create a culture that not only empowers employees to be productive and innovative, but also prioritizes their mental well-being. This, in turn, has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line: it’s estimated that poor employee mental health costs businesses and organizations about US $1 trillion each year.
With more and more workers now valuing a strong company culture above all else (including higher pay), employers must prioritize things like psychological safety and employee well-being. Yet another reason to proactively train and develop soft skills in-house!
How to introduce soft skills training in your organization
As we’ve seen, the business value of promoting and training soft skills is huge. In fact, in some cases, the ROI of soft skills training has been valued at around 250%. Pretty impressive!
There are several ways to incorporate soft skills training into your learning and development initiatives. These include coaching and mentoring, as well as dedicated workshops that focus on specific skills such as relationship building, communication, and problem-solving.
Additionally, you can nurture essential soft skills in the process of training certain hard skills. Among the most sought-after hard skills right now is proficiency in another language — and language learning is one of the most effective ways to develop key soft skills. So, if you’re looking for a training solution with a high return on investment, look no further than corporate language training.
How corporate language training helps your employees to develop essential soft skills
When we learn a new language, our brain actually undergoes physical changes. Studies have shown that learning a new language increases the volume and density of gray matter, and results in increased neuroplasticity. In simple terms, this enables improved cognitive functioning.
In terms of soft skills, exercising the brain through language learning helps to improve and increase our capacity for communication, problem-solving, empathy, creative thinking, and multitasking — all of which are extremely valuable in the workplace. You can learn more about how learning a new language develops essential soft skills in this post: 5 Essential Soft Skills Your Employees Will Develop When They Learn a New Language.
Develop multilingual teams and nurture essential soft skills with Babbel for Business
Corporate language training should be flexible, engaging, and tailored to suit the needs of the individual.
Babbel for Business offers exactly that. It’s an online learning solution designed to work for companies of all shapes and sizes, with virtual group classes, bite-sized lessons that fit into any schedule, and a vast library of content to suit all levels.
Your employees get the opportunity to learn a new language, with access to expert content and human support from certified teachers. As an employer, you get a cost-effective training solution that teaches both hard and soft skills in one.
Anika Wegner, B2B Blog Editor
Exploring other cultures through language is particularly important to her. That's why she loves writing for Babbel about topics, how companies can benefit from language-learning solutions.