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Why Soft Skills Are Paramount in Employee Development Plans

By Sue Wigston on April 26, 2018

If you think technical skills are enough to help employees succeed, findings from a Google study show otherwise. Project Aristotle, a study designed to explore group behavior and team productivity, found some startling outcomes that challenged traditional ideas of the components of success. Research found that a team does not thrive off the individual intelligence and skills of group members, but the level of social sensitivity that they display toward others on a team. 

When organizations are aiming to boost company performance, they should have a strategy in place that ensures their team is comprised of socially thoughtful leaders and employees who can effectively work together. After all, research has found that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent.

How do you ensure your employees have the soft skills they need to succeed? Make it a part of their employee development plan.

Keep in mind that these are skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and working with others. When skills like these are intentionally being developed you are giving your employees opportunities to practice and hone their soft skills, so they can use them back on the job.

Here are a few reasons why soft skill development should be an essential part of your overall employee development plan:


Prepare Leaders for the Future

The best and most inspiring leaders have high emotional intelligence (EI). They aren’t just intellectually savvy, but they also understand how their decisions and words impact those around them. Leadership is all about having a balanced set of skills that focus on employees’ competence and confidence in the workplace. Soft skills can help to develop both. By investing in soft skill development, employees will become more aware of their current leadership qualities and the skills they need to develop and improve in order to become a world-class leader.


Build a Better Workplace Culture

Amy Edmundson, economist and Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business school, reveals the importance of psychological safety in helping individuals feel comfortable with interpersonal risk-taking. Building safe spaces for employees to share ideas and opinions without being ostracized allows companies to create an innovative and collaborative culture. Moreover, employees will be more willing to cooperate with others instead of compete, which opens the door to better results and increased engagement.

Learn how you can adopt experiential learning into your training and  development initiatives with this guide.

Enhance Productivity

Many employees go through periods where their roles demand more of their time, attention, or effort, and they risk feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Developing time management skills is crucial to managing this stress and warding off burnout. Soft skill development helps employees solve problems, strategize solutions, and create actionable steps to achieve project goals in more effective ways.

When an employee’s soft skills are not well developed, there is a chance their coworkers, department, or organization will feel the impact. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems that negatively impact the quality of the project, the time it takes to complete it, and the overall engagement with it.   


Improve Goal-Setting Strategies

Goal setting is a valuable soft skill that is needed in order to define and achieve goals; it’s the missing link that shows why some people succeed while others give up.

If you want your team to achieve results, show them what’s expected through clear and attainable goals in the employee development plan. Goals should be set and regularly reviewed throughout the year to see what’s working and where there is room for improvement. Employee development plans should include big picture goals that support the organization in achieving its larger goals and preparing employees with the soft skills they need to succeed.


Build Competent and Confident Communicators

Employee development plans should not just focus on skills that are needed for future success; they should also emphasize skills that are needed on a daily basis. Negotiation and public speaking are soft skills that develop employees with dynamic communication styles—and these skills will prove important in a variety of situations that will impact your company growth and performance.

For example, if you’re leading a client meeting, sharing organizational announcements, or involved in a difficult one-on-one conversation, you’ll need to be equipped with communication skills that will make the situation better for everyone involved. It’s better to add these learning opportunities to an employee development plan now or risk an unexpected turn of events later.


Soft skills are a vital component of employee development plans because they aren’t skills that employees can learn overnight. You may be able to train employees within days on how to use the new company software, but you can’t expect employees to change their behaviors and actions without a plan. The employee development plan allows organizations to support their leaders in creating a plan of action—one that will help more employees more effectively use the soft skills they have to be optimally successful.

Experiential Learning: The Key to Effective Employee Development

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As Chief Operating Officer, Sue's extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development. Sue has over 20 years of experience in the creation and delivery of programs and custom designed solutions for Eagle's Flight.

About Eagle's Flight

Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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