Learning and Developing Soft Skills Using Social Media? You are Not Alone!

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Photo Credit: Akson via Unsplash

Research has determined that 62% of office-based workers in the UK have used social media or online platforms for developing soft skills. Out of this, only 44% strongly agreed that they possessed the right skills to carry out their roles effectively.

Continue reading to find out more about developing soft skills, what competencies are currently in demand, and how employers can help their employees develop soft skills.

Developing Soft Skills to Conduct Jobs Effectively

This study was conducted on behalf of KPMG UK, in which 2,000 desk-based working adults across the UK were surveyed about their learning and development practices, including those provided by their employers and alternative methods they used.

According to the research findings, 55% of workers want to learn more skills to conduct their jobs effectively. The research also finds that learning soft skills is as important as learning digital and/or industry-specific skills. This is reflected by the 41% of workers who want to develop skills like leadership and communication.

Reasons given for the desired training differ across sectors. Improving proficiency in a present role topped the list for more than half of the workers. Promotion is another reason given, with this of greater importance to healthcare workers and those in the events and hospitality sector.

Read: Nine in 10 Employees Want To Learn Digital Skills

However, due to a combination of issues such as outdated technologies, lack of accessibility, restricted options, and inadequate quality, workers are increasingly turning to learning methods other than those offered by their employers. Younger generations of workers are also beginning to prefer certain learning techniques, such as generative AI, and expect quick and easy access to learning resources, which their employers cannot always provide.

KPMG’s Learning Services Director Alex Ball says, “There is a growing need for organisations to modernise their learning delivery tools to meet the expectation of modern workers, take control of the learning content and ensure that the learning consumed by their employees is aligned to their ambitions as an organisation.”

What Soft Skills are in Demand?

Soft skills, or “people skills”, are transferable across many sectors within the world of work and are therefore highly prized by employers. Unlike “hard skills” (i.e. technical skills) which must be entirely learnt, people typically have a degree of competency in certain soft skills which they have developed through day-to-day life.

Nevertheless, given the value which employers place on these, developing soft skills through consistent training and practice is advisable, particularly those which are considered of particular importance by employers.

Communication and Willingness to Learn Regarded Most Preferred Skills

Research conducted by recruitment firm Michael Page, in which 1,000 hiring managers across the UK were surveyed, demonstrates which soft skills were most valued by employers in 2023.

“Communication”, with 35%, was revealed to be the most sought-after soft skill by hiring managers of all age ranges. This was closely followed by “willingness to learn” (34%) and “teamwork” (33%).  Echoing the thought, analyses of job advertisements and recruiter messages conducted by LinkedIn showed that “communication” remains the top soft skill for 2024.

Read: Poor Quality Applicants and Skills Shortage Ranked As Top Issues in Recruitment in 2023

Given the prevalence of remote working, this applies to communication across numerous channels and platforms as well as in person. Also in high demand for this year are “customer service”, “leadership”, and “management” skills. All of these notably have a people-centric focus, demonstrating the increasing value to employers of those skills which cultivate professional relationships, build trust, and collaborate across teams, something artificial intelligence cannot currently achieve.

Employees Want Better Online Resources For Soft Skill Development

Whilst there is an immense variety of jobs across an array of sectors and disciplines, most of them involve working with people to varying degrees.

From collaborating with colleagues and interacting with customers to liaising with patients and negotiating with suppliers, a person’s proficiency at these human-focused types of tasks will depend on the quality of their soft skills. Developing soft skills can also impact a person’s longevity within an organisation, facilitate professional growth, and help to build self-confidence.

Read: 74% of Job Hunters are Rejected Entry Level Jobs Due to Lack of Experience

The findings from KPMG’s research show that most workers are keen to learn and are already committed to developing soft skills. A crucial point to note, however, is that workers also have strong views about how they want to do this. Employers should embrace and nurture this learning mindset by providing methods for developing soft skills which adhere to their employees’ learning preferences.

KPMG’s Chief People Officer Karl Edge endorses this approach and says, “There is a vital need for learning opportunities to continue evolving, reflecting the changing landscape as well as the varying wants and needs of younger generations entering the workplace.”

Tailoring Online Resources Can Allow Better Learning for Employees and Progress Tracking for Employers

A crucial first step is understanding what and how employees want to learn, with a view to acting on the responses and establishing topics and methods of development which meet employees’ needs and expectations. Conducting skills assessments and requesting employee input are two effective ways to gather this information, as is encouraging regular feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Workers of younger generations widely prefer online learning. This may be provided through a learning management system, which will also enable employers to create content and monitor employees’ progress. Offering tailored and timely training will enable employees to learn whilst working, simultaneously making the learning more relevant and rewarding.

Read: Employees Want Workplace Training – And Here is What They Are Looking For

Networking is another great method for both developing soft skills and putting these into practice. Employers might consider organising networking events where employees can mingle and begin to build stronger relationships with their colleagues. More interactive training, such as live workshops, can also facilitate networking.

Ensuring that all such events and sessions are accessible to everyone is naturally essential, including providing options for employees working from home to join remotely so they too can benefit. Coaching and mentoring programs are another form of networking, with the added advantages of encouraging peer learning, providing real-life opportunities for developing soft skills, and boosting motivation.

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