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How to convince management of the importance of soft skills

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Most Learning & Development managers are well aware of the importance of soft skills for the success of a business, but it can sometimes be a real struggle to convince top management to invest in essential training.

Here are a few tips to get your leadership on board.

Match your leadership’s goals with hard data

The first step is to make sure you are prepared for the conversation with your senior management. Just saying you find soft skills important is not going to cut it. Back yourself up with hard stats.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of scientific research that supports the positive impact of soft skills on all areas of a business. Key is to stay in line with your leadership’s goals and ambitions. Are they mainly concerned about profit? Refer to a study like the recent one from Boston College, Harvard University and the University of Michigan that found that soft skills training boosts productivity and delivers a 250 percent return on investment. (1)

Is their main focus on how to improve staff retention? The same study and many others have shown the significant effect of soft skill training on reducing staff turnover. Or are there some very big projects on the horizon? Maybe you’d want to mention some of the studies that highlight the importance of soft skills to bring complex projects to a successful end. (2)(3)

A quick Google search will surely bring up the necessary sources.

“Our competitors are doing it”

Most senior leaders have a real FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Talk to your contacts or use your good friend Google again to try and find out whether your competition is already investing in soft skills training.

Create a sense of urgency

Every day your employees’ soft skills haven’t been honed is filled with risks of miscommunication, friction and other inefficiencies. Stress the fact that the time to act is now.

Start small

Large projects can seem very daunting, even for senior leadership. Take one step at a time and propose a small pilot or trial to test the waters.

Have a plan

Make sure you have a concrete plan for how to implement training, how much it will cost, how long it will take to implement and how you will measure success.

Take note of any concerns

Despite your well-researched stats and detailed plan, your management will probably still have some unresolved concerns. Acknowledge these and adjust your plan to take them into account.

Deep down your leadership will already know the value of soft skills – it’s all about helping them justify the decision.

Thomas Buus Madsen is the COO and co-founder of Bookboon, the world’s largest e-book publisher for employee effectiveness and soft skills. By focusing on quality, usability and keeping all business e-books under 50 pages, Bookboon caters for time-poor employees who want some hands-on guidance at the point of need. Unsurprisingly, Bookboon’s eLibraries have some of the highest usage rates in the digital learning industry.

Download a FREE copy of Bookboon’s “Soft Skills” by Manmohan Joshi, a practical guide to developing soft skills in the workplace.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.