University of Michigan study: Soft skills training boosts productivity, retention
As project roles continue to evolve, and an increasing number of organizations conduct business on all corners of the globe, it will become more important for people to communicate clearly, lead effectively, and adapt to ever-changing conditions. We often talk about the importance of building a holistic skill set for project-based workers – no matter their role or level in the organization. But how do we prove the value of this human investment?
For practical purposes, business skills can be divided into two large buckets – hard skills and soft skills. In the “hard” bucket are technical skills – data, financial, and statistical analysis, IT, competency with various software – and the list goes on. “Soft” skills – perhaps a misnomer, implying they are somehow not as significant as their counterpart – include things like communication, problem solving, leadership, and adaptability.
There is little doubt that having a technical foundation is critical to executing work. What is typically more in question is the value of soft skills – or more specifically, how to quantify or measure their value.
A study by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business sought to do just that, and the results, while astounding, should not be surprising.
The study implemented a randomized controlled trial by providing soft skills training to female garment workers in India. The experiment was designed to not only to determine whether people gained personal benefits from training, but also whether it is worthwhile for businesses to invest in such training for their employees.
Ultimately, the study showed that investing in soft skills training for employees not only boosted productivity, but also led to greater talent retention in an industry with a traditionally high turnover rate.
Across a variety of metrics, the study found that:
- Trained workers displayed higher self-regard and sociability
- Trained workers were more valuable employees: more productive by 7% after training
- Trained workers’ retention was 3% higher after training
- Post-training, the average complexity of the trained workers’ tasks rose considerably
At the conclusion of the training program, the study calculated the net rate of return to the company’s investment in training to be around 250%.
While having a technical background – in the realm of project management, this includes managing tasks, timelines, and budget – is an important skill set to master, it’s abundantly clear that combining this foundation with soft – or relational – skills, can pay huge dividends. What’s significant is that investing in training not only improved the workers’ well-being but also that of the organization as a whole.
Learning how to interact with and leverage your network will allow you to communicate up, down, across, and even outside your organization to get work done. Taking it a step further, developing an adaptive mindset will accelerate your projects forward when the business environment around you is constantly changing.
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- Study Shows a 250 Percent ROI for Soft Skills Training - October 1, 2018