Building soft skills to beat the talent shortage

A cultural change around learning and development is needed. Covid-19 has driven a change in the skills required for both individual and organisational success. Soft skills such as problem solving, adaptability and resilience have become even more essential, yet many need help and support in enhancing these qualities – support that still remains inaccessible for many.

Right Management research has found that 67% of employees who have benefitted from training or skills coaching report better performance in their role, while 89% of workers cite an improved sense of job satisfaction and contentedness at work. It’s clear that employees appreciate and value coaching and other learning and development opportunities, and yet, 3 in 10 employees still aren’t being offered any coaching by their employer; while others are continuously failing to utilise coaching support despite it being made available to them.

So what can businesses do differently to build the soft skills they so desperately need?

Leaders must drive a cultural shift, whereby coaching and ongoing learning and development become central to the workforce. As it stands, many business leaders are failing to offer their employees the opportunity to train and develop their skillsets, with 67% of employees saying they don’t have a written plan in place with their employer to map their professional development. In the face of an ongoing global talent shortage, this needs to change.

Coaching must become a focal point in workforce development – here’s how:

Role modelling: It starts at the top, with senior team members visibly utilising coaching and spending time on their own professional development. Doing so creates a permission culture whereby employees at every level feel encouraged to follow-suit; and taking the time to focus on growth and development becomes the norm throughout the entire workforce.

As employees see managers and senior executives consistently role modelling this mindset of continuous learning, uptake on coaching and other learning & development initiatives will improve – creating a culture of learning and development at all levels, generating a skilled workforce and guaranteeing greater return on investment for the organisation.

Training managers: Line managers are pivotal to all businesses and are optimally placed to encourage and support ongoing development within their teams. However, there is often a disconnect between how business leaders perceive their managers to be, and the reality of the situation. Our research tells us that despite two thirds of employees saying coaching directly helped them improve their professional performance, 60% of workers across Europe are still only discussing their development with their line managers once a year or less.

Without these crucial career conversations, which line managers often feel ill-equipped to have, employees are less likely to feel comfortable spending time up- and re-skilling. And it’s through having access to coaching and training support that line managers can learn the techniques and tools needed to support their direct reports more effectively – highlighting the need for coaching to be accessible at every level of an organisation.

Making time for development: With Covid-19 accelerating new ways of working, increased workloads are dominating employees’ time and pushing learning and development down the list of priorities. And with 49% of workers already suffering from burnout as a result of their increased workloads, business leaders need to ensure they’re communicating to employees that taking time out of their working day for personal or professional development is both OK – and expected.

Through doing so, workers will find themselves better equipped to overcome stressors and enhance their levels of productivity, leading to improved job satisfaction and a greater inclination to remain with their organisation – 74% of employees who plan to stay with their firms for longer than two years receive coaching support.

Why investing in coaching support makes business sense

By implementing role modelling behaviours at a senior level, providing clear communication around the normalisation of ongoing learning, and investing in the upskilling of line managers, business leaders can drive a culture of professional development. The workforce will be upskilled for future success – with 65% of coached employees citing an improvement in one of their professional skills – and organisations will benefit from greater talent retention.

And it’s through outcomes such as these that the International Coaching Federation found that businesses can expect between 4 and 8 times the return on their investment in coaching activities.

To learn more about how coaching support contributes towards organisational success, download our latest whitepaper.