How to Teach Soft Skills to Your Interns & Entry-Level Employees
Entry-level job candidates can’t only bank on their chosen college major or their GPA to succeed in today’s ever-evolving workplace. Hiring managers expect young employees to have a wide range of hard and soft skills. But students don’t often enter the workforce with training on how to write a professional email or how to dress appropriately for the office.
Here are some ways to teach soft skills to your interns and entry-level employees:
• Understand the difference between hard and soft skills
• Identify the top soft skills needed in today’s workplace
• Create a learning and development program for your young employees, focusing on soft skills mastery
According to Business Insider, Generation Z is the “youngest, most ethnically-diverse, and largest generation in American history, comprising 27% of the US population.” This generation, armed with social causes both near and far, grew up with digital technology, the Internet, and social media. They know how to work the TV remote, and new computer apps don’t scare them.
But, like many younger generations entering the workplace, no matter how skilled this generation is at digital and computer technology, they’re still entry-level employees with entry-level skills. Employers need to groom and mentor young talent, teaching them the ways of the workforce.
Many college students and graduates will come armed to new employment with a base level of hard skills, such as computer programming, accounting, or engineering skills—skills they learned in college. However, colleges typically don’t teach how to write a business email, how to manage time, or how to adapt to an ever-changing work environment. Some of these skills come with life experience. Others need to be addressed out of the gate.
Let’s look at how to teach soft skills to your interns and entry-level employees.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
What is the difference between soft and hard skills? Quite simply, hard skills are related to performing specific tasks, whereas soft skills are how you do them, according to LinkedIn. Hard skills include specialized knowledge, like cloud computing, financial management, or nursing. Soft skills, on the other hand, reflect your thought processes and behavior. Think personal characteristics, like professionalism, critical thinking and time management.
As technology continues to alter how we work, soft skills are becoming more critical to company success. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Recruiting Trends, 92% of global talent professionals say that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. Additionally, 80% of these professionals say that soft skills are essential to organizational success.
Let’s look at some top soft skills young employees need to excel in today’s workforce.
Top Soft Skills Needed Today
It’s easy to say that recruiters should increase focus on soft skills during the hiring process. But what does that really mean? How do you identify and assess soft skills in job candidates?
“While hard skills may get a candidate’s foot in the door, it’s soft skills that ultimately open it.”
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Recruiting Trends report, creativity tops the list of desirable soft skills for employers. It makes sense—in a world of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the Internet, creativity is uniquely human. Other soft skills that are needed, but may be hard to find, include:
- Time management
Interestingly, 89% of LinkedIn study respondents stated that bad hires typically lack the needed soft skills to succeed within their organization. With the cost of a bad hire averaging at least 30% of that employee’s first-year salary, identifying and developing soft skills for your workforce, including interns and entry-level employees, no doubt contributes to your organization’s success.
Learning & Development for Interns and Entry-Level Employees
Armed with a stack of resumes after finishing the campus recruitment season, you have identified the top candidates for internships or entry-level positions at your company. These students succeeded in their respective majors, boasting high GPAs and collegiate accolades, thus, demonstrating their grasp of relevant hard skills.
But how do you know that these students are a fit for the company or the job? 75% of long-term job success results from soft skills mastery. But how do you teach soft skills?
Luckily, the development of a person’s emotional intelligence is nearly endless, according to eLearning Industry, making teaching soft skills more than doable. Here’s how.
Ideas for Teaching Soft Skills to Entry-Level Employees
- Include soft skills training in onboarding. For new hiring classes of interns or entry-level employees, host a weeklong soft skills training in addition to other onboarding meetings. Hold the training in a classroom setting, where new employees feel safe to ask questions amongst their peers. Be sure to include lots of time for practice and role playing so that students feel more comfortable acting on what they’ve learned once they step out of the classroom.
- Focus on the skills hiring managers want. What do hiring managers complain about the most when it comes to entry-level workplace experience? Do interns need pointers on what to wear to the office, or do they need help figuring out how to prioritize projects? Ask managers at your organization what’s most important for you to focus on during training.
- Highlight the company’s core values. Your company’s core values can tell new hires a lot about what’s expected of them. Your values define what’s important to your organization, and are a good guide for how employees should behave. During training, share core values with examples of how they can be demonstrated in practice.
- Include soft skills in performance reviews. Skills like professionalism, time management and collaboration are just as important to an employee’s success as being able to perform the tasks required for their role. Include soft skills in employee benchmarks so that they’re front and center during performance reviews.
While college or bootcamps can offer students a plethora of hard skills training, it’s up to employers to set expectations for soft skills. Focusing on soft skills during the recruiting process and offering training during onboarding not only shows an investment in your youngest employees, but sets the entire organization up for success by building a more informed, more professional workforce.