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Does soft skills training add value?

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

The short answer to this is that it depends on whether best practice standards are in place. Management training can be incredibly valuable, or it can fall short of the mark entirely. There are three key parties involved in the process. The training organisation, the leader requesting the training, and the team involved. All parties have a role to play to ensure there is an effective result. It is the role of the leader and the training company to collaborate closely to ensure everyone plays their part.

Does soft skills training add value?

Customisation is key. Off the shelf training will offer less relevant, less focused areas of development to what is really needed for a team. When clear development gaps are understood a customised training can be built to directly meet individual and group needs. That said you are never going to have every section of a training 100% relevant to every team member. The topics selected must be those that the majority will benefit well from. Gaps and themes can be built up from a combination of personal development plans, feedback from team members, colleagues and other stakeholder and any observed performance issues.

Effective management training is thoughtfully planned. Leaders need to dedicate time to briefing and giving the training partner a chance to get under the skin of the business. Of course, it will help if the training company has sector experience. This alone is not enough however, as if you

give limited time to your provider then expecting them to understand your people and their specific needs is not realistic. It makes sense that the specific challenges with suppliers, customers, or stakeholders faced by your team are brought into the training materials and worked through in depth.

Past training experiences which did not lead to meaningful change can make managers sceptical about making further investments in programmes.

Leaders will do well to challenge the training company to focus deeply on the specific team needs and provide a focused approach to resolve behavioural and skills gaps.

Successful training is also built and implemented in conjunction with key team representatives. In particular it is worth involving any cynical individuals, or team members with disruptive behaviours or developmental gaps. When the approach is turned on its head and key people with specific learning gaps are invited to participate in the origination of the training they will engaged more fully and get more out of it.

When a decision has been made to start a training programme the very first step is to ensure the value of the activity is understood by the team. If the session is correctly prioritised, and "sold in" to the team the positive outcome will increase exponentially.

Imagine if a training provider offers a pre-work exercise to a team to set up a training session. The leader does not re-enforce its importance, the team members do not all bother with it. Those members of group will turn up to the training confused and dis-engaged. However if the value is made clear and the priority is given over other business activities everyone will gain much more from the experience.

When there are organisational changes, a new team, a remote team, a new leader, or other personnel changes it is right to bring the team together (virtually or in person). Whatever the actual subject of the training, a group session allows everyone to get to know one another better, increases trust and sense of team and provides an opportunity to build support and passion for shared goals.

Team building is a wonderful focus and/or side benefit to sessions. The best management trainers know this and allow time for this to enhance team spirit.

In certain organisations (and more and more in our post pandemic world) there is an accelerated pace of change.

Management training is there to help guide and coach teams on how to embrace and cope with change. If there is a volatile or uncertain market place individuals need to be better equipped. Tools are required to prioritise better, make faster decisions, and remain resilient to continually adapting environments. This is as true when it comes to new initiatives, new processes and technology or indeed new products and services brought fast to market.

If we are asking for more from people, we need to ensure they have the right tools and strategies to adjust and revise their working practises.

As we start to focus on succession planning there is even more call for assessing development needs against job descriptions and planning training to address skill gaps. Within a well-designed training programme there is always scope for building in focused sessions for individuals ear marked for progression.

It does not stop at the end of the days training. Change and people development is only effective with ongoing re-enforcement. Delegates need to be prompted to focus on this and given a self-accountability process in order to practice what they have taken away.

This simple self-led mechanic is very powerful:

One: Test the new way of behaving in a real-life business scenario. (E.g. Listen better in a meeting)

Two: Carry out a self-review. (Consider what to start, stop, and continue)


Three: Try again and adapt from the experience. (Get better at applying the new behaviour each time)

Rinse and Repeat!

It is the responsibility of the team lead to ensure that the follow up work and re-enforcing of learnings takes place.

If the training provider offers resources and follow up work for reflection, the team must feel they can prioritise it and be given the time to focus upon it.

For leaders this might all sound like a lot of extra work, and it is true that influencing behaviour changes and creating new patterns will not happen easily.

Reflect though on all the unnecessary issues which occur from people behaviours born from poor communication, poor team work, poor prioritisation or inadequate internal influencing skills, from poor management behaviours or poor planning capability. This almost certainly represents a significant overhead of time for team leaders.

Real sustained change is possible when management training is properly executed and will truly enhance team performance.

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