Many people see training and development as split into distinct areas, often as simply as a bisection between technical training and ‘soft skills’. Although many individuals, even those in Learning and Development, find it difficult to put a finger on exactly what constitute soft skills, it is not so much this dissection but the level of which people need what level of exposure. Should it be a simple split such as an 80/20? Should there be more weight given to the ‘essential’ components of technical training and less to those peripheral areas which are harder to gauge and assess? Is there even a need to prescribe set amounts of one or another?
It is not possible in one sort blog to sum up all the key ins and outs of all of the different thoughts and opinions which float around these ides. The key element that strikes me is the gravity of discussion to which this once minimized area of the professional development spectrum now warrants. I spend time dealing with many development professionals, experienced managers, and representatives from industry groupings who now frequently share the view that no-technical skills are growing in importance at a rapid pace. In a conversation I had last week, an experienced COO proclaimed that it is not worth doing the technical training if you are not going to supplement this with soft skills.
This may be a simplistic view, to some extent, but does succinctly describe the feeling that this form of personal development now has an increasingly growing stature. Unlike technically based training courses, assessing soft skills based training, mapping training in this area to competency based frameworks, and prescribing values such as those used in Continuous Professional Development, can be problematic and not always provide the benefits which they set out to. Nevertheless, it is important to monitor progress and development in this area; otherwise, it is impossible to verify the improvements and the benefits.
It is pleasing to see wholesale changes across industry sectors that may previously have been hostile to some of the ideas which are currently being circulated. Although there is a long way to go in certain professions and industries and in some jurisdictions, recent years have seen a proliferation of such courses for personal development and industry wide adoption of such practices. The future holds much on this front, and certainly exciting times are ahead for those of us working in this field, and for all of you who are exposed to it!