In today’s job market, soft skills have become as important — some say even more important — than possessing all the skills and experience a hiring manager might hope for. Leadership, resilience, good communication and teamwork have become so essential for workers that companies spend millions on programs to cultivate these skills.

” HR executives want to ensure their workers — managers especially — have these vital skills,” notes an article on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Are they getting their money’s worth?

That’s the focus of the article headlined “Measuring the ROI of Soft Skills.” It outlines a five-step process to prove the worth of a program.

Interestingly enough, the process begins with answering the question “Why.”

“When determining the ‘why,’ talent development professionals should keep a hard truth in mind: most soft skills programs do not connect to the business,” write the authors Jack J. Phillips, Patti Phillips and Rebecca Ray. They say research shows company leaders ” want to see the business connection of learning, and sometimes the ROI.”

“Having the skills in place is only behavior,” they say. “Most funders, after all, want more than that. They desire impact and ROI, so plan for it rather than waiting for them to ask.”

The next step in the process is “defining the desired outcomes and business impacts and, when implementing a new solution, developing objectives.” Program designers, the facilitators, participants and their managers should all be involved in designing the training to achieve the goals. “All should be aimed at not only learning, but also using these skills and their subsequent impact.”

The next three steps all involve gathering, analyzing and using the data to both demonstrate the ROI and to improve the program in order to optimize the ROI.

“As it relates to impact, data sources can include key business metrics such as productivity levels, customer satisfaction scores, error rates and the number of workplace accidents,” the authors explain. “As such, a teambuilding program may improve productivity, reduce errors, improve absenteeism rates, reduce employee turnover or raise employee engagement levels.”

For behavior change, the authors recommend gathering data from “observation, focus groups, interviews, performance reviews, customer feedback and surveys of both the individual and stakeholders.”

In analyzing the impact data, cleaning it to isolate the effects of the soft skills program from other influences is essential. Then, the authors say, “the impact data should be converted to money to quantify the program’s monetary benefits.”

The data analysis, they observe, is “is probably the most important step from the perspective of executives.”

Communicating the ROI helps build the business case for continuing to fund soft skills training.

This approach, the article concludes, is valuable at any time, however it is especially relevant now given the “vast fallout from COVID-19.

“Both budgetary challenges and interpersonal work conditions will continue to underscore the importance of soft skills. Now, HR has the tools to make that case with the kind of hard numbers that executives appreciate.”

Photo by jose aljovin on Unsplash


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Green Key

Motivating With Money Has Its Limits

Money isn’t nearly the powerful motivator people believe it to be.

Dozens, perhaps even hundreds of studies demonstrate quite clearly that a few extra dollars or even many extra dollars rarely produces the long term effect on productivity employers hope for.

It is true that the less a worker is paid, the greater the impact of a bonus or raise. But at a certain pay level, somewhere around $75,000 according to one study, financial rewards lose much of their effectiveness to motivate. For these workers, the role of intrinsic motivation is much more pronounced.

All workers are driven by some combination of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. The influence of co-workers, pride in the work, feelings of accomplishment and the ability to recognize the significance of your contribution are the powerful intrinsic motivators that drive us all. Money, as Laura Stack explains, plays an important, if supporting role.

A $25 contest for a minimum wage earner will almost certainly produce the desired result. Someone earning $50,000 isn’t likely to care. Indeed, as Stack notes, research shows these one-time rewards have no lasting power. “Sometimes productivity even drops off to a lower level than before the award was received,” she observes.

In his famous book Drive, Daniel Pink insists that for workers whose job requires judgment and cognitive skills autonomy, mastery and purpose are the primary motivators, that is once they are paid enough to meet basic needs.

Autonomy is the ability to direct your own work. It doesn’t mean no boss. It does mean being able to decide how to do your work.

Mastery is having the opportunity to use your skills and get better at what you do. Jobs that are too easy are just as demotivating as jobs that are too far ahead of your current ability to do a good job.

Purpose is what excites you about your job; it’s seeing how what you do contributes to the greater good, which can be the success of the organization or accomplishing a team goal.

Productivity pro Laura Stack says that money wisely used can achieve short-term objectives. “When poorly applied,” she concludes, “Financial rewards sow more resentment than high performance.”

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash


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Green Key