What are Soft Skills Trainings?

Soft Skills and Technical Skills Training – what is the difference?

YinYang - hard (technical) and soft skills are requiredWhat are soft skills trainings and why does it matter? In the recruitment industry there is a saying:

technical or  hard skills will get a person an interview, but effective softskills will gain a job offer

Soft skills are usually those personality or personal attributes that enable a persons social interactions and effectiveness. This can lead to enhanced (business) relationships, job performance and career prospects. Unlike technical or hard skills, which tend to be specific to a certain type of task or activity, soft skills are applicable to everyone in different measures.

Defining softskills

Soft-skills are usually described as personal attributes, for example:

  • Accepts Responsibility
  • Willing and able to bear high levels of responsibility: making decisions, being accountable.
  • Openness
  • Positive Attitude
  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Toughness
  • People Skills
  • Judgement
  • Organized
  • Dependable

and interpersonal abilities, such as:

  • Assertiveness
  • Dealing with Aggression
  • Listening Skills
  • Counselling Skills
  • Stress Management
  • Confidentiality
  • Group Working
  • Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Negotiation
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Reflection & Clarification

Many training providers consider:

  • Influencing
  • Team management
  • Delegating
  • Appraising
  • Presenting

Purely soft skills?

To be purely soft skills – they are not. Success depends on knowing the technical elements of the skills, and then using effective social skills to fully deploy the skill.

For example take presentation skills.

Being able to talk to people is one thing (confidence, clarity etc), but without good structure, effective planning and research.
Without good structure and order the content could be meaningless – but “entertaining” (easy to listen to).

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What I mean by this is that a presenter can have a technically good presentation. It can have a beginning, middle & end. It can have a story, logic and structure. But if the person lacks the passion, animation, engagement, interpersonal skills the presentation can be ineffective. For an effective communicator so to give a good presentation requires both good design (content) and good skills in communicating that message.

Often the DIFFERENCE between average and good performance are the social or soft skills deployed. Not just in presentation skills!

What is Soft-skills?

Some professionals believe Soft skills to be  a sociological term relating to a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), – in the broadest terms not just as the well known psychometric test. This includes a cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterise relationships with other people.

However we look at it, Soft skills complement technical or hard skills, which are the occupational requirements of a job or role and many other work and life activities. generally speaking the best performers are those with both good technical skills and highly developed soft or social skills.

Despite the term “soft skills”, there is nothing fuzzy or unmeasurable about them. In a given situation with 2 people having similar technical skills, the difference in performance is that of “soft or social skills” development.

For those of us in senior management and leadership roles, only those of us with strong interpersonal skills (softskills) will be able to deliver the job performance required along with the complex array of change management projects and board level politics that surround us in our every day work.

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No matter what people say, few of us work in isolation, therefore social or soft skills are critical for all of us. Even those roles which in the past have been considered to be “knowledge” and skill based such as engineers, IT technicians, Lawyers etc. The difference is their ability to interact and communicate with others to ensure effectiveness.

Soft Skills Training Courses

It is rare indeed for any training course to really give “soft skills” to learners or participants from scratch. What the trainings tend to do is to allow the individuals “time out” from the pressures of the day-to-day work to reflect on what skills they possess, and to have time to put these things back into context. An opportunity to “clear the swamp” rather than watch for alligators.

Take time out to people watch and have a look in any supermarket or playground at 3-5 years olds. They have highly effective influencing skills, wonderful presentation skills, the ability to have conversations with new people, they can negotiate like the pro’s – we all have these skills – its just that we have not necessarily practiced them. Watch children in the playground meeting new “friends”, then compare that to a typical networking event with fully grown adults and our reluctance to connect and introduce ourselves. Indeed in business we have a lot to learn from those aged 3-7 – what happens to us from the age of 7 – well that is another article!

What are soft skills trainings?

Soft-skills are also known as “professional skills” –  – they are often the difference that makes the difference! It is not always about knowledge or experience buy HOW!

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Page reviewed and updated due to reader feedback October 2015

About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike provides training & development in senior management, leadership, change management & other strategic programs to an international client base.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.


  1. RT@rapidbi What are Soft Skills Trainings?: The term Soft skills is thrown around to mean unmeasurable, and yet …

  2. New Blog post: What are Soft Skills Trainings?

  3. Renato Lacerda says:

    RT @RapidBI: New Blog post: What are Soft Skills Trainings?

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