Putting People First: The Soft Skills Approach to Winning Others Over

professional development

by Loralyn & Amrit

Do most of your employees feel like cogs in a wheel? Do they simply function as automatons with no path for personal growth or outlet for ingenuity? If you answered, “Yes,” to one – or all – of those questions, your organization may be paying a heavy price for such a work environment.

Employee Disenchantment: A Costly Work Environment

Employee disenchantment manifests itself in two forms. Your employees may come to work every day (or boot up from home), perform their functional duties in a perfunctory way, and then simply wrap up their day and go back home or shut their electronic devices down. This is one form of disenchantment.

The second form, which has significantly greater consequences than the first, is departing from your organization. Typically, this is not a swift process. Their malaise may not be as obvious in a WFH environment, but it can be palpable in an office setting. Corporate culture is a lot like the bushel of apples – it takes just one going bad to spoil the lot. In their quest for a better workplace, these quitters are likely vocal about the reasons why they’re moving on.

The Great Resignation and Articulated Reasons for Leaving

In the shadows of The Great Resignation, quitters have articulated the reasons why they’re leaving. A lack of purpose is routinely cited as one of the main reasons why – particularly for Gen Z. No career advancement path is another common reason. Workers are human beings – kind of like plants but with complex emotions. Failing to water and feed a plant renders it limp, wilting and withering away in the absence of nutrition and sunlight. For disengaged workers, that experience is not dissimilar – only they’re talking about what they lack and avowing to make the change that they need so that they don’t decay.

Professional development is a big part of that. Absolutely, greater support on the personal development side has been a resounding chorus from just about every employee. Their mental health matters – and those companies who value workers as humans and uphold mental health support as a critical aspect of workplace operations will be the organizations who do better with employee retention.

Both types of disenchantment are detrimental to your organizational growth. The Great Resignation, aka “The Big Quit,” has pushed many companies to the brink. In 2021 alone, over 38 million workers quit their jobs, with 4 million or so workers quitting each month. Many have determined that they’d rather work for themselves: in 2021, over 5.4 million new businesses incorporated in the USA – that’s about twice the number from the record set the year before. Forecasts suggest that as many as 17 million new businesses will form in the current year.

The Pandemic as a Catalyst for Change

Many employers are blaming Covid-19 for the mass exodus. However, the pandemic may simply just be the catalyst spurring change that has been idling for decades. For some, the pandemic epiphany is a personal, spiritual quest. For those tasked with plugging the holes, they’re looking deeply into workplace organizational design, learning and development, corporate culture, salary, benefits, and leadership as possible places for improvement to stem the tide.

However, for many organizations, it’s the status quo – perhaps bump up salary a few percentage points and call it a day. Analyze the numbers, find an acceptable range that meets the metrics and industry benchmarks, and hit the low end of the range to lull themselves into thinking that they’re competitive in the marketplace. All that process, policy, and procedure no longer gets people excited.

Despite the ominous warnings of dystopian prophets, we are probably still decades away from the robots completely taking over our jobs. The ironic thing is that, despite the fear of being replaced by a mechanical entity, many employers and managers are “getting cheugy with it” and dictating adherence to a defined pattern of commands (i.e. process) – or else.

Prioritizing a “People First” Strategy

Part of The Great Reboot program that we’re rolling out requires that businesses adopt a “people first” strategy. An emphasis needs to be placed on human interaction. With WFH, remote onboarding, our insatiable appetite for social media and screen time, we’re not meeting in person. There’s not a lot of downtime available to just relax and connect. We’re driven to hit the metrics – under more pressure than ever before as companies try to deftly navigate a sea of change. Plus, everyone has their own side-hustle. How many employees today are giving your organization 100% loyalty and fidelity? With less interaction, less time, and more pressure, you’d think that organizations would be myopic about communication and breaking down silos. Nope!

Although social networks and instant messaging people paint the illusion that we’re interacting more than we ever have in the history of civilization, our engagement is perfunctory and rote much of the time. This brings us back to the first form of disengagement. Our robotic pattern of scroll, like, swipe – rinse, repeat – is dehumanizing.

Live interaction amongst people sitting face-to-face is completely different from the linear dialogue happening through instant messaging apps or the frequent drivel offered as commentary on people’s posts. Nonetheless, people today often engage with each other – via their phones – even if they’re in the same room or sitting side-by-side. We’ve been conditioned that this is somehow acceptable, the new normal and all that. But we can play a proactive role in shifting mindset and undoing some of this damaging conditioning wrought by social media and the pandemic by emphasizing the importance of social skills.

It all begins with mutual respect among your employees; both vertically and horizontally. Offer latitude to socialize, experiment – and fail. Lauding competition and one-upmanship breeds toxicity. Kill it before it poisons your whole organization.  Do you offer entry-level talent and emerging leaders support to develop the human skills and other soft skills needed for success? Do you encourage a growth mindset and professional development and ask your employees if they have a sense of purpose? Consider fostering group discussion – mobile devices down – and see what happens.

The good thing is, many employees, especially those inextricably lumped into the label that is “Gen Z,” recognize that there is a social problem. Moreover, they know that they need and WANT a solution. For example, in a survey, 76.3% members of Generation Z admitted that they use their mobile phones more than they should and would welcome time away from them.

Investing in Soft Skills and Creating a Positive Group Environment

To be whole people, we need to think about personal plus professional development. That could mean the combination of life coaching plus executive coaching. And it certainly means investing in both hard skills like technology and soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, and more. After all, no matter how technical the job is, we’re social beings and generally function better in a positive, group environment.

We need to communicate. Our thought processes and critical thinking are bolstered with community learning – translated, that means interaction. Empathy is in critical short supply. We need to understand each other – not just what is being communicated, but how it’s being communicated and especially how it’s being received. And we need to belong to something.

Soft skills take time to build. People need a safe place to learn by doing. And they need the infrastructure behind them to hold people accountable with consequences for non-compliance regarding their behaviors. Over time, positive change manifests itself. But it needs to start with a reboot of your corporate mindset.

Why reboot? There are many reasons as an organization and as an individual. “I want to work in a toxic environment and do the same thing every day,” said no one! Be prepared to walk the talk if you embark on a journey towards reboot. Habits form more easily than they can be broken – but it’s not impossible to replace a bad behavior with a good one. It just takes time, some support, and a little guidance on how to get it done

Want to talk about how The Great Reboot can change things up for your organization? Book a consultation HERE.


Amrit & Loralyn

AmritLoralyn Mears Soft Skills Academy

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