Why IT should put a spotlight on soft skills training

Why IT should put a spotlight on soft skills training
Most organisations reward their IT teams for their technical knowledge and accomplishments, rather than their soft skills – like their ability to communicate and collaborate. While this is understandable in many ways, it means the value of these skills is often de-emphasised. As a result, few IT professionals recognise the value of developing them.

Nevertheless, as IT has evolved from a back-end function to include front-end experiences, soft skills have risen in importance. Technology is now embedded in all areas of business and consequently, IT professionals increasingly need to collaborate and communicate cross-functionally with other business areas, to ensure they develop fit for purpose innovations.

IT professionals who develop effective soft skills are better able to understand and convey the business value of IT projects to non-technical stakeholders. They can more easily earn buy-in and support. They can collaborate more effectively on cross-functional teams. And they can attain positive outcomes and deliver successful projects more efficiently.

Furthermore, the business critical nature of many IT projects mean they typically come with extremely tight deadlines, requiring a task-orientated approach. This challenges IT professionals to collaborate under pressure and communicate with utmost clarity.

Enhancing soft skills in IT

Yet, individuals that combine strong technical capabilities with impeccable soft skills are few and far between. So, while many business leaders recognise the importance of these skills, they struggle to embed them into their IT teams.

The good news is these skills are coachable. With a switch in focus from a training perspective, businesses can fill the soft skills deficit they face.

There are all kinds of strategies which can help with this. For example, remote IT professionals can hone their skills by relying more on video chats or conference calls, and less on email exchanges. Doing so would allow them to practice professional interpersonal skills and develop relationships with teammates that aid collaboration.

Another useful approach is to facilitate their desire to communicate more, by providing positive feedback. IT professionals often need to communicate with frustrated co-workers or customers who are experiencing technical problems. A high volume of these types of stressful interactions may lead to communication avoidance. Or, at least, the desire to not answer the phone or open an email. Providing positive feedback can help facilitate their desire to communicate.

It’s time to focus on soft skills training in IT

Instead of just focusing on honing technical capabilities, it’s time for IT leaders to take a more holistic approach and place greater emphasis on soft skills training. They need to regularly demonstrate the principles of collaboration; and reward those who successfully showcase those skills.

Ultimately, IT teams benefit when all team members are equipped with effective communication and collaboration skills. Understanding and developing the soft skills of IT professionals will lead to the success of the entire team – and, most importantly, the success of the organisation.

To find out more about the importance of soft skills training in IT, download our whitepaper: The Softer Side of IT.