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7 Soft Skills Trends to Look Out for During 2021

The year 2020 made us realise that if you want to survive and succeed in business, adaptability is essential, and change is inevitable. Constant development and refreshing of soft skills have become core to businesses’ success.

The sudden pandemic pushed business operations, and the ability to continuously develop their human capital’s skills, into the 4th Industrial Revolution much earlier than was anticipated. Markets and consumer buying habits are also changing with every lockdown which makes the economy very unpredictable. Questions like, “how to handle customers?”; “how to manage a sales team remotely?”; “how to deal with employee issues?”; and even “how to promote mental health and employee wellbeing in 2021?”, are some of the concerns that need to be addressed with proper skills training.

The one thing that remains vital in every business and industry is that employees and management need to continuously up-skill in order to adapt and change for growth and progression to take place. So, with all the change and volatility in the business world, what skills can HR look out for during 2021?

1.    Master Effective Communication in a Remote Work Environment

Digital communication options have quickly replaced face to face conversations. Now you can talk over the phone, send an email or have a meeting via Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype etc. Gone are the days where you would climb into your car to go out to meet a prospective client or even your team leader. Now, most conversations are happening digitally through computers or phones anywhere whether it be your home office or at a coffee shop.

On the one hand, this is a very convenient way to communicate and poses a lot of positives but on the other hand, it also causes a lot of communication problems which your team leaders, managers and staff were not ready for. They now need to upskill how to effectively communicate with their remote teams; what the correct business etiquette is to have in virtual meetings; how to communicate virtually when conducting remote disciplinary hearings as well as how to sell remotely…to name but a few.

2.    Practicing Emotional Intelligence in a Virtual World

Emotional Intelligence, also commonly referred to as EQ, is linked to individual success in life in general. If you know yourself well enough, it enables you to understand others better. Highly emotionally intelligent people also receive feedback and constructive criticism better. Dealing with difficult conversations an appropriate manner is much easier.

Part of EQ is the ability to be empathetic. Conducting business virtually requires a lot more empathy because people are being exposed to and experience different situations and issues within this new digital workplace. Because all of us have different personal lives and home settings, ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’, is suddenly not so easy because you cannot physically see or go through the exact experience with someone because you are not part of their world.

To some people, their workplace offers an ‘escape’ from their home stressors and now, instantly they are being expected to cope with things like juggling meetings and kids all within one space. Empathy and strong Emotional Intelligence is especially important for managers, employees, and team members to help each other adapt and to form a better understanding of each member’s situations and challenges.

3.    Change, Flexibility and Adaptability

A lot of people battle with these three concepts especially because this pandemic did not really leave room for preparation. Suddenly employees are expected to set up home offices, managers are supposed to manage teams remotely and do performance appraisals even though they cannot physically see what their team members are doing.

Everyone hopes for a level of trust and understanding but when the employee has shortfalls, or shows poor performance, few managers have the skills or know-how to conduct disciplinary hearings or performance reviews remotely. Managers and team leaders are expected to keep their teams motivated and inspired. They are required to “manage” this team without physically being with each other.

Skills in, not only change, flexibility and adaptability, but also in acceptability are vital to everyone in the business. It will help people to cope better and understand that although the change is inevitable, how you respond to it is what makes it either hard or easy to deal with.

4.    Employee Wellness and Mental Health

These are stressful times for literally everyone. Mental health and corporate burnout have been buzz-words throughout 2020 and will continue throughout this year as the pandemic reaches the second, and maybe even the third and fourth wave. Workplace burnouts are especially serious under the health and essential workers.

Companies and institutions are expected to collaborate to educate and upskill employees in mental health issues in order to combat stress related illnesses, promote coping methods and ultimately curb higher staff turnovers.

5.    Education and Promotion on Cleanliness and Hygiene

Regular education and skills development on the importance of, not only Covid regulations and protocols, but also regarding hygiene and cleaning habits among staff in general, especially among cleaning staff is vitally important throughout this pandemic. People tend to get complacent and relaxed after a while, and the new variant of Covid, which flared up the second wave, proved that we cannot let our guard down.

When you constantly educate and upskill your staff, it becomes second nature to them. Although everybody is irritated with this pandemic and the constant repetition of washing hands, wearing a mask, social distancing etc, when something is constantly repeated it remains top of mind which ultimately impacts actions.

6.    Teamwork

Everyone has a need to belong and to be appreciated especially when you are part of a team. There are lots of difficult challenges managers and team leaders face when trying to get a remote team to collaborate and work together as a team. Not being able to physically comfort a distressed team member or seeming to be distracted by something your fellow colleagues cannot see while trying to have a meeting with everyone etc, are becoming real problems.

Thus, a different skill set with tools and techniques is needed to enable leaders to effectively communicate, actively listen and give adequate feedback to their remote teams.

Team leaders should also acquire methods and techniques to help promote teamwork by motivating and inspiring their team members. All this and more can be obtained from The Mindspa Institute’s courses presented as a virtual session or as part of a blended approach.

7.    Stress and Time Management

People’s general stress levels are through the roof and timelines are blurred as working people are unexpectedly faced with juggling irregular work hours, distracting work environments not even mentioning the threat the coronavirus poses to endanger their and their loved ones’ lives. Without warning, all these added stressors contribute to various performance issues, higher staff turnover, and a decline in the overall health and wellbeing of employees.

However, with the correct stress and time management techniques and skills every employee can manage their stress and time themselves. It is imperative that companies invest in proper stress and time management skills development training programmes to upskill both current and new employees equipping them with the tools to cope during these times.

In conclusion, the upskilling of employees and management needs to become an everyday thing in order to stay on-top of an everchanging business world. More and more HR professionals are seeing the huge difference continuous soft skills training as well as integrated learning (on-the-job training) contributes to productivity and performance.

The Mindspa Institute offers various soft skills training courses with seasoned expert facilitators who will energise your employees while equipping them with essential skills needed to help grow your business.