Seven common mistakes when teaching soft skills online

Most organizations expect their employees to work independently, while at the same time engaging harmoniously with others. It’s a fascinating mix of abilities that are commonly referred to as ‘soft skills’. They include communication, problem-solving, time-management, adaptability, creativity, etc.

By Nicolas Macheda on Apr 24th

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Regardless of where your employees are in their employment cycle, soft skills are fundamental. But unlike technical skills, they’re mostly intangible and relatively hard to measure. This is why many employers have traditionally taught them in a classroom setting – at least until recently. With Covid-19 making most face-to-face interactions difficult, remote learning has become the go-to (and in many cases the only) delivery method for soft skills training.

Luckily, authoring tools like Easygenerator make it simple for employees to create and share their own courses. But whether you’re teaching colleagues how to encourage better team dynamics, improve customer service, or communicate more assertively – there are some mistakes you need to watch out for when teaching soft skills online. Here are seven of the most commons ones.

Mistake #1: Not focusing on one skill at a time

It can be tempting to batch multiple skills together. But teaching several soft skills at the same time is way less effective than focusing on just one. Indeed, when it comes to e-learning, less is often more. So, even if there’s some crossover between different skills, keep your course as focused and brief as possible.

As with any kind of training, you need to decide first on your learning objectives. You can then use those objectives as a measure for keeping your content as tight as possible. Make sure also you limit the length of your course so that people can go through the material in one go.

Mistake #2: Not making your course interactive

Many soft skills are actually people skills in disguise. Think of negotiation, collaboration, listening skills, or interpersonal skills – we learn to master them in relation to others. So, to get better at them, we need a certain level of interactivity.

Face-to-face training often uses role play. This can easily be replicated in online training, with real-life mentors guiding employees through realistic scenarios. By simulating actual situations, workers can directly experience the outcome of various decisions they make. You could even use AI-based online scripts that allow employees to interact with virtual characters.

Mistake #3: Not asking employees what they need

Soft skills are intangible and can be hard to quantify. Employees will naturally be better at some of those skills than they are at others. But like technical skills, they can always be trained and improved upon.

Although a top-down approach to learning is only advocated these days in a limited set of circumstances, soft skills – in particular – require a bottom-up approach. After all, nobody’s better placed than your employees themselves to tell you which abilities they’re falling short on.

You can use surveys or assessments to get feedback on what they’d like, and then use this to come up with customized online training.

Mistake #4: Not appreciating the value of Employee-generated Learning

Whether teaching conflict resolution, team building, or time management, many employees will welcome the opportunity to create e-learning courses for their less-experienced colleagues. They know it will deepen their own understanding of the topic while increasing their status in the organization as a subject specialist.

Putting in place user-friendly authoring software like Easygenerator will help lower the barrier for employees to share their training material online. Employee-generated Learning also has the advantage of being one of the most cost-effective delivery methods around.

Mistake #5: Not including refreshers

Most soft skills can’t be mastered unless you hone and practice them regularly. And here lies the problem. Skills development often stops the moment an online course is finished, especially if there are no refreshers or follow-up support mechanisms in place.

It’s best to remind your learners at the beginning of your course how they’ll benefit from keeping their skills relevant and up-to-date. Ask them what follow-up they’d find useful and help them understand the upside of following up on their learning.

Mistake #6: A lack of internal marketing

There isn’t much point in putting together an impressive library of online content if nobody knows about it. Simply uploading a new course and then relying on your employees to find their own way to it, is not a good use of resources.

It’s important to put an internal marketing plan in place that informs your staffers of what’s available. As an author, be sure to spend some time advocating your course among your peers. Don’t be shy also to use the organization’s online communities and social media groups to spread the word about new training releases.

Mistake #7: Not tracking the ROI of your courses

Soft skills are essential to the success of your organization. Tracking and measuring should therefore be a given. So, even though they’re somewhat intangible and hard to measure, you’ll need to put in place adequate training goals.

Doing so will be different for each skill. For example, to measure the effectiveness of a time management course, you could look at the evolution in the number of cases closed by your customer service employees. Or, when training assertiveness, you could measure success through feedback from colleagues or managers.

L&D professionals can also track the usage rates of online training packages via their LMS or course authoring dashboard. A high engagement rate will usually indicate that employees are clearly benefiting from it.

Conclusion

Investing properly in your employees’ soft skills development has a positive knock-on effect on every part of your organization. Although traditionally the reserve of classrooms, the need for teaching soft skills online has exploded in recent weeks. At least for the time being, remote learning will often be the only route for employees to practice and hone their abilities.

But poor-quality training can put your workers off from taking soft skills seriously. By avoiding these seven common mistakes, you’ll be able to source high-value courses that’ll keep your workforce engaged. And who knows, they might even be inspired to come up with their own training courses in the future.

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About the author

Nicolas Macheda is Easygenerator’s e-Learning Campaign Manager. French at heart but living in the Netherlands, he is passionate about Tech, Education and freshly baked croissants.

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