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Why Soft Skills Training is More Important Than Ever—And How Microlearning Can Accelerate It

Written by Grovo

“The machine was theirs and it would come home to roost. It would engender more machines, more intricate machines, more amazing machines, more machine-like machines, until the world and all its man-made parts became one vast, interlocking machine of a machine.”

– Henry Miller, Stand Still Like A Hummingbird

Research from the University of Oxford says within the next 20 years 47% of the jobs in the U.S. will be eliminated due to technology. If you’re wondering just how at risk your own position is, NPR has created an app just for that. Proceed at your own risk.

Don’t worry—in a certain sense, this is nothing new.

From the agricultural revolution, to the industrial revolution, to the information age, technology has always pushed the workforce forward. The key to staying one step ahead of the machines has always been our ability to lean further into what makes us human.

Enter soft skills, or people skills.

How deeply can we empathize with one another? How precisely can we communicate? How thoughtfully can we lead? How effectively can we rouse emotions, share visions, and inspire action?

The answer to all of these questions largely boils down to our soft skills, or people skills. Unlike quantifiable hard skills like how to write a line of JavaScript or edit a document, soft skills are less easily measured. They’re the interpersonal abilities that enable us to work together effectively.

Soft skills drive business success. Always have.

Nearly one hundred years ago, research from Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford University concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills. And the same holds true today.

What’s changed, however, is the speed at which those soft skills need to be learned.

According to Deloitte, modern learners have just 1% of their week available for learning. Their attention spans are shrinking, they’re overwhelmed by mounting responsibilities at work, and they want the know-how they need right when they need it—and not a moment later. Which brings us to microlearning.

The benefits of using microlearning to train employees on soft skills

Here at Grovo, we’re strong advocates of microlearning. Giving people short bursts of practical teaching, on the devices they prefer, right at the moment of need is the best way to build skills in our fast-moving, always-on digital age. When you use microlearning to train people on soft skills you:

1. Give learners a manageable starting point

Learning a complex and nuanced soft skill like leadership or negotiation can be intimidating—so much so that a learner may be tempted to give up before they even begin. Microlearning lowers the barrier to entry by giving people the bare minimum of information or know-how they need to get started. Unlike a day-long workshop or huge tome of a book, a short micro lesson doesn’t purport to teach somebody all the nuances of, say, body language in a single sitting. It only asks them to take the next step forward.

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

2. Put learning right in the workflow

We’re all voracious consumers of content these days. But how much of that content actually impacts our day-to-day work? The ideas inspire us, the tips seem valuable, but when confronted with the hustle and bustle of the workday, often they simply fade into the background—pocketed away for “the right time.” But there’s no such thing. The right time to practice your people skills is always now. Well-designed microlearning lives into that philosophy by making short, actionable resources available right in the workflow where they can be put to immediate use.  

Microlearning keeps learners on the move.

3. Develop a special kind of confidence

For many people, the reward of engaging in a meaningful discussion with a teammate or giving a winning presentation is markedly different from the reward of successfully creating a pivot table in Excel. It’s the difference between soft skills and hard skills. They’re both important, but there can be something more deeply fulfilling about soft skills—they speak to our core humanity, connect us to one another, and help us more clearly see and feel our personal potential. More than many traditional learning formats, short bursts of just-in-time microlearning allow that kind of feeling to become a greater part of the everyday employee experience.

Who wouldn’t want their workforce to feel this good?

4. Speed up the feedback loop

We tend to take people skills, well, personally: “I’m just not a good speaker,” or “I’m not a natural leader.” This is why it’s so important to give learners quick wins to repeatedly silence that inner critic. Microlearning helps do this by speeding up the feedback loop: Learners learn something, apply it, and immediately see the impact. Rinse and repeat. There’s nothing wrong with attending a week-long leadership retreat. But until your employees can get there, consuming well-crafted, action-oriented micro lessons is a reliable way for them to practice doing the things great leaders do right away—and reap the rewards in the process.

Microlearning yields faster feedback loops for all

A future powered by smarter technology and better humans

We live in an incredible world where computers can compose pop songs, report on the Olympics, and even pen some pretty good poetry. The mandate for you and me is clear: keep evolving professionally or find yourself being replaced by a machine.

Soft skills are key to that evolution, and good microlearning can help you develop them in your employees and even yourself on a daily basis. This way, no matter how sophisticated our robots get, we’ll always be nurturing on the one thing that can never be automated—our humanity.