SOFT SKILLS

The modern workplace is a living organism that is constantly evolving, and the only way to stay relevant as an organisation is to keep abreast of industry trends and implement programs that promote growth and efficiency within the organisation.

We have been looking at 2020 workplace trends, three weeks ago, we considered Trend #2, Remote work. We determined that remote work is rapidly gaining acceptance in workplaces, especially in Information Technology companies. We concluded that promotes work-life balance and increases productivity while cutting cost for employees as well as the organisation. 

The third 2020 Workplace trend we want to consider is the development of soft skills.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, 2007, Soft skills are a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one’s relationships in a milieu. 

Soft skills include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits. 

Soft skills cover three key functional elements: 

  1. social skills
  2. people skills 
  3. personal career attributes 

These skills are crucial for today’s workplace as they complement hard or technical skills. Soft skills have become a major criterion for employment as well as advancement in an organisation.  

An employee’s soft skill is a crucial part of their contribution to the overall success of their organization, especially if such an organisation deals with customers on a face-to-face basis. A critical success factor for an organisation like this is the ability to promote activities that help employees develop these skills through team-building activities and wellness enhancing programs. 

Soft skills

The following is a top ten list of soft skills compiled by Eastern Kentucky University 

  1. Communication – oral speaking capability, written, presenting, listening, clear speech & writing.
  2. Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful.
  3. Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable.
  4. Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values, does what’s right.
  5. Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humour, friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
  6. Positive attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
  7. Professionalism – businesslike, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
  8. Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, conscientious, common sense.
  9. Teamwork – cooperative, gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative.
  10. Work ethic – hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.

Although difficult to quantify, soft skills play a critical role in employee performance and productivity. They help facilitate human connections needed for high-performance and efficiency in the workplace. 

2020 WORKPLACE TRENDS

The modern workplace is not static, it is in motion, constantly evolving and expanding to accommodate emerging technology, digitization and globalization. These incessant changes reflect in the way organizations engage and retain talents.

It has become imperative to look closely at workplace trends in a bid to understand the different initiatives that are creating significant disruptions in workplaces all over the world; in the next 12 weeks, we will be considering 12 workplace trends that business leaders, as well as professionals, must be abreast of in order to redefine workplace ethos and create a positive, flexible, and collaborative culture tailored to the needs of the modern worker.

TRAINING AND UPSKILLING

The provision of programmes through which an employee can learn, upskill and advance on the job is what determines whether or not, or how long that employee will stay with the organization. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that training spurs personal development and plays a fundamental role in retaining top talent which is why the first 2020 workplace trend we are looking at is training and upskilling.  

The importance of training and upskilling cannot be overemphasized, it is what nurtures top talents and help maintain high-performance teams.

We know what training is, but what exactly is upskilling?

On the micro level, upskilling describes the process by which individuals learn new skills, but in the macro context, it refers to a paradigm shift in the workplace caused by the introduction of technology. As we all know, technology has created new possibilities that can be fully realized only by a trained workforce. This development has necessitated the acquisition of new skills to engage with the technology.

Why is upskilling suddenly taking centre stage?

Digital transformation is largely responsible for this. Technology has transformed business operations by providing tools that make it easy to transact, and at the same time created a skills gap; some technologies have a steep learning curve while others are user-friendly. To thrive in the modern workplace, talents need to acquire technical skills regardless of their discipline or industry.

Beyond a great welfare package, conducive work environment and fat paycheque, one way to retain competent employees is the prioritization of training and upskilling of the workforce.

workplace-trends
workplace-trends
Emotional outbursts happen when someone is triggered by a statement, action or treatment doesn't sit well with them.

Dealing With Emotional Outbursts in the Workplace

Apart from churches, market places, public events, the workplace is the only other place where you can find a great number of individuals from a different ethnic, socio-political, religious and educational background in constant communication and contact.

Although diversity in the workplace inspires team building, productivity and knowledge sharing, it is not without its challenges – challenges such as flaring tempers, hurt feelings and random outburst.

Each organization has its own set of criers, the ones who wear their hearts on their sleeves and respond to frustration, sadness, or worry through tears. There are also those who scream at the slightest provocation, table pounders who are aggressively invested in every decision. These kinds of emotional outbursts are not just uncomfortable; they can put a team in jeopardy, stall productivity and limit innovation.

According to Team Effectiveness Advisor, Liane Davey, an emotional person should not be allowed to postpone, dilute, or drag out an issue that needs to be resolved. Instead, the outburst should be taken for what it is: a communication; because emotions are clues that the issue being discussed is touching on something the person values or believes strongly in. Davey maintained that the outburst gives three sets of information: emotional data; factual or intellectual data; and motives, values and beliefs.

Davey adds that Managers get stuck when they only focus on the first two — emotions and facts; which is easy to do. For instance, when someone starts yelling, people might think they’re insane (emotion) because their project had just been defunded (fact). Many managers stop there because they find feelings uncomfortable or aren’t sure how to deal with them. That’s why the first step is to become more self-aware by questioning one’s mindset around emotions. There are several myths that often get in a team leader’s way:

Myth #1: There is no place for emotion in the workplace. If you have humans in the workplace, you’re going to have emotions too. Ignoring, stifling, or invalidating them will only drive the toxic issues underground. This outdated notion is one reason people resort to passive-aggressive behaviour: emotions will find their outlet; the choice is whether it’s out in the open or in the shadows.

Myth #2: We don’t have time to talk about people’s feelings. Do you have time for backroom dealings and subterfuge? Do you have time for re-opened decisions? Do you have time for failed implementations? Avoiding the emotional issues at the outset will only delay their impact. And when people don’t feel heard, their feelings amplify until you have something really destructive to deal with.

Myth #3: Emotions will skew our decision making. Emotions are already affecting your decision making. The choice is whether you want to be explicit about how (and how much) of a role they play or whether you want to leave them as unspoken biases. With your beliefs in check, you’ll be better able to get beyond the emotion and facts to the values the person holds that are being compromised or violated. This is critical because your criers and screamers are further triggered when they don’t feel understood. The key is to have a discussion that includes facts, feelings, and values. People will feel heard and the emotion will usually dissipate. Then you can focus on making the best business decision possible.

Here’s how.

Spot the emotion: If you wait until the emotion is in full bloom, it will be difficult to manage. Instead, watch for the tell-tale signs that something is causing concern. The most important signals will come from incongruence between what someone is saying and what their body language is telling you. When you notice someone is withdrawing eye contact or getting red in the face, acknowledge what you see. “Steve, you’ve stopped mid-sentence a couple of times now. What’s going on for you?”

Listen: Listen carefully to the response, both to what is said and what you can infer about facts, feelings, and values. You will pick up emotions in language, particularly in extreme words or words that are repeated. “We have a $2 million budget shortfall and it’s our fourth meeting sitting around having a lovely intellectual discussion!” Body language will again provide clues. Angry (leaning in, clenched jaw or fists) looks very different from discouraged (dropping eye contact, slumping) or dismissive (rolling eyes, turning away).

Ask questions: When you see or hear the emotional layer, stay calm, keep your tone level and ask a question to draw them out and get them talking about values. “I get the sense you’re frustrated. What’s behind your frustration?” Listen to their response and then go one layer further by testing a hypothesis. “Is it possible that you’re frustrated because we’re placing too much weight on the people impact of the decision and you think we need to focus only on what’s right for the business?”

Resolve It: If your hypothesis is right, you’ll probably see relief. They might even express their pleasure “Yes, exactly!” You can sum it up “We’ve talked about closing the Cleveland office for two years and you’re frustrated because you believe that the right decision for the business is obvious.” You’ve now helped your team member articulate the values he thinks should be guiding the decision. The team will now be clear on why they are disagreeing. Three people might jump in, all talking at once “We are talking about people who have given their lives to this organization!” Here we go again…Use the same process to reveal the opposing points of view.

Once everyone is working with the same three data sets — facts, emotions, and values — you will be clear what you need to solve for, in this case, how will we weigh the financial necessity with the impact on people. Although taking the time to draw out the values might seem slow at first, you’ll see that issues actually get resolved faster. And ironically, as you validate emotions, over time people will tend to be less emotional as it’s often the suppressing of the emotions or trying to cobble together facts to justify them that was causing irrational behaviour.

If you’re leading a high performing team, you better be ready to deal with uncomfortable, messy, complex emotions. If there’s a situation you have failed to address because of an emotional team member, spend some time thinking about how you will approach it and then go have the conversation. Today. You can’t afford to wait any longer.

Culled from EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Handling Emotional Outbursts on Your Team by Liane Davey, Author, Leadership Solutions.

"People who dress better are typically treated better at work," says David McKnight, a New York City-based image consultant. "They are usually given more responsibility and are shown much more respect."

THE RULES OF WORKPLACE STYLE

In today’s business-casual workplace and organizations operating from co-work spaces, suits and ties and formal dresses no longer seem to be the standard, not even in financial institutions; however, the way a person dresses to the workplace still matters and to a large extent determines how they will be spoken to and treated.

“People who dress better are typically treated better at work,” says David McKnight, a New York City-based image consultant. “They are usually given more responsibility and are shown much more respect.”

Here are tips on what to wear and what not to wear — so you can make the best impression on your boss, colleagues and clients.

Business casual isn’t a fashion free-for-all,” says Susan Bixler, president and founder of the Bixler Consulting Group. The Atlanta-based consultant has created guidelines for business-casual dress for those just starting out, workers at mid-career and those eyeing the executive suite.

The “baseline” look starts with the three Big Nos

  1. No flip-flops
  2. No jeans
  3. No visible tattoos

Yes to:

  1. Tailored trousers
  2. long-sleeve shirts or tops

The “midstream” look is similar but with an emphasis on higher-quality fabrics while the executive version ups the sartorial ante by recommending jackets for men and trouser-style suits for women.

“Any time you want to add authority, put on the jacket,” says Bixler, the author of seven books, including The New Professional Image: From Business Casual to the Ultimate Power Look.

The General Rule:

In journalism, the editor would always as you “leave out”, if you’re unsure; the rule is different when it comes to dressing and style. If you are to attend an interview or a business meeting and are unsure about the dress code, you should ask in advance, then again, you can’t possibly be faulted for appearing in a jacket or suit. Wearing a suit to an interview, meeting or work is a nonverbal way of communicating the fact that you are in for serious business.

Curb excesses.

Clothes that are too tight, overly generous makeup, too much jewelry, and accessories as well as ‘loud’ fragrance.

Never show up to work in shorts, ripped jeans (not even on a Friday)

Avoid wearing dusty, unpolished shoes to work.

When it comes to dressing, women have more options while the playing field for men is quite narrow and straightforward.

Too Much Skin

“Edgy looks, especially those involving the baring of cleavage, skin or tattoos, rarely cut it at the office, unless you happen to work in a trend-conscious field like advertising or fashion.

“When you’re not sure whether something is appropriate for work, then there’s a 98 percent chance that it’s not,” McKnight says.

The Whole Look

Choosing the right clothing is just one component of your professional look, which includes good grooming and hygiene, as well as being well-rested and mentally ready to face the day.

“There are so many things we don’t have control over, but what we can control is the image of professionalism we show to the world,” Bixler says.

Building a great workplace structure

DEVELOPING A GREAT WORKPLACE CULTURE

There was a time when the brand value of an organization and remuneration paid to workers made an organization a desirable place to work.

However, today’s workplace has evolved to the extent that fat pay cheques, generous tips, and bonuses can no longer attract or keep employees, especially when the workplace is toxic. Sadly, organizations lose great talents because of their failure to put a premium on developing a healthy organizational culture.

A healthy workplace culture is what attracts talents and imbues them with a sense of loyalty which binds them to the organization and makes them continually give their best to ensure the company stays in business and is profitable.

What constitutes workplace culture? you might ask; Workplace culture refers to those intangible attributes of an organization that makes it a great or toxic place to work in, these attributes are largely defined by the ideology that drives the organization.

These ideologies are often reflected how employees related to management as well as one another. Inclusivity Consultant and Behavioural Scientist, Dr Pragyal Agarwal maintains that positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce.

Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive work environment reduces stress in employees. The following are simple ways an organization can improve their workplace culture:

1. Communication and collaboration: a workplace culture that values and encourages open and honest communication, feedback and teamwork are all vital for improving workplace culture.

2. Continued learning opportunities: knowledge sharing, brainstorming sessions as well as social interactions within the office all add up to improve the workplace culture of an organization.

3. All-inclusive work environment: value, support and encourage all employees regardless of gender, ethnicity, social or religious orientation. All employees should have equal access to growth and advancement opportunities, bonuses and general goodwill.

4. Establish trust: employees should be able to confide in management and have honest conversations with one another without fear of being judged. Again, trust that you have a good and dependable team.

5. Make onboarding of new staff easy and warm: get an old and friendly team member to take the new staff around and acquaint them with the rest of the team, answer their questions and help set up their workspace. A great workplace culture takes time, effort and dedication to develop, but it is worth it. The first step is to have frank a conversation with your team and communicate your vision for the company to them in clear terms and ensure they identify with it; once this is achieved, the rest will easily fall in place.