Soft skills overtakes leadership as top L&D priority

In a survey of 292 learning and development professionals, 63 per cent claimed that their number one priority for the next 12 months was to develop the so-called ‘soft skills’ of employees – the skills that relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with others. The second priority was leadership training, which had consistently been ranked as the top priority since 2009. Other key areas of focus for L&D are customer service training, professional skills development and compliance training.

Martin Addison, CEO of Video Arts, said: “Leadership development has been the top priority in our survey for the past three years, as many organisations have believed that the secret of greater success lies in more effective leadership. This year it has been pushed into second place as L&D teams are increasingly recognising that technical qualifications and knowledge are not enough; employees also need soft skills for organisations to be successful. Issues of personality, attitude and behaviour have a big impact on performance in the workplace because they affect how well people are able to communicate face-to-face and work effectively with others.”

The survey also asked L&D teams about how they deliver training and their plans for the future. Face-to-face training is still widely used, with 81 per cent of organisations using classroom learning. E-learning (79 per cent), coaching (72 per cent) and experiential learning (53 per cent) remain popular options and newer forms of delivery are also gaining ground: virtual classrooms and mobile learning. 64 per cent of organisations plan to increase their provision of coaching over the next two years; 55 per cent will offer more learning through virtual classrooms and 55 per cent will provide more experiential learning.

A growing number of L&D teams are now using e-learning to provide soft skills development. E-learning is also used for compliance training health & safety training; leadership and management training; induction training; professional skills training and customer service training. 18 per cent of L&D practitioners who don’t use e-learning say they plan to implement it in the future.

“E-learning is enjoying a resurgence and our data shows that organisations are increasingly using video in e-learning to provide a richer media experience,” said Martin Addison. “It used to be that e-learning courses were used more widely for ‘hard skills’, such as IT training, compliance and health & safety but the need to provide cost effective training, combined with the availability of better courses and better IT support, seems to be encouraging more organisations to use e-learning for soft skills development.”