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How to Acquire Soft Skills and Measure Them Successfully Use the innovative Meka's five-level evaluation model to measure soft skills training.

By Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Teaching — and measuring — hard and soft skills are uniquely different. It's far easier to teach and measure hard skills, and usually, teachers teach hard skills while trainers train soft skills.

Since soft skills are behavioral skills, it requires extra effort on the part of trainers; they use various tools and techniques including interaction, role-plays, active participation, and experiential learning to bring out the desired behavioral changes in the participants. Researchers, scholars and educators often find it hard to explore tools and techniques to measure soft skills to ensure effective training takeaways.

So how can you acquire soft skills?

Observation, reading, training, experience and practice is the most popular ways. Interaction with others helps acquire soft skills greatly as well. Since soft skills are behavioral skills, there's some trial and error involved. It takes emotional intelligence, flexibility and adaptability. You must be practical, realistic, and situational to acquire soft skills. Above all, you must learn from your failures to improve your behavior to get along well with others effectively.

Related: Can Soft Skills Be Learned? Only If You Truly Commit.

You must develop interpersonal skills and learn to observe and understand people and their behaviors. Traveling to unfamiliar places and talking with people from different walks of life will help you learn to understand others. Understanding other cultures and behaviors teaches tolerance and improves soft skills.

Reading soft skills is one thing; applying them is another. Attending workshops and training programs help you define soft skills and how you can best acquire them. Here are some popular tools and techniques:

  • Be self-aware.
  • Avoid preconceived notions.
  • Keep your body language positive.
  • Listen to the speaker carefully.
  • Make eye contact with the speaker and reciprocate positively.
  • Empathize with the speaker.
  • Be flexible.
  • Praise people lavishly.
  • Make the speaker feel important.
  • Accept criticism graciously.
  • Interact with different types of personalities who are introvert, extrovert, assertive, submissive, and aggressive.
  • Above all, be adaptable.

Succinctly, be proactive, be a good listener, improve interpersonal skills, and build relationships to acquire soft skills.

Can soft skills be measured?

Matching the objectives of soft skills training with the feedback received from the participants can help measure soft skills effectively. For instance, every training program has a set of objectives, and the program is rolled out to the participants accordingly. At the end of the training program, the participants are asked whether the training has met their objectives, aspirations, and expectations. Since soft skills training is behavioral, it is hard to measure, but taking timely feedback at the end of the training session helps greatly achieve the training takeaways.

Related: The 3 Steps to Learning Any Power Skill

Meka's five-level model to measure soft skills

Evaluation is essential to understand the effectiveness of any training program. It helps understand how far the training has impacted the participants and improved their behavior and performance. Additionally, it helps assess the strengths and weaknesses of the program and the pulse of the participants to deliver the training program better next time. Let's take a look at the innovative Meka's five-level evaluation model to measure soft skills training:

  1. Conduct the training needs analysis to identify the current skills gap in the participants.
  2. List out core objectives clearly to deliver the training.
  3. Execute the soft-skills training program meticulously as per the objectives.
  4. Align the deviations or distractions from the training program.
  5. Measure the training takeaways from the participants through questionnaires and effective feedback.

Sample questions to measure soft-skills training

  • Consider using the following questions to measure the soft skills training program:
  • Did the soft skills training transfer the knowledge, skills, and abilities to the participants effectively?
  • Did the soft skills training improve the attitude and behavior of the participants successfully?
  • Is the training worth investing time, money, energy, and resources?
  • Are the training outcomes as per the training objectives? If not, identify and address the deviations or distractions.

List out the three most soft skills training takeaways that can improve the attitude, change the behavior, and polish the personality.

Soft skills are an evolving discipline

Unfortunately, people often take the significance of soft skills lightly. In fact, the concept of soft skills is an evolving domain that people must take seriously; people must be educated about them.

Whenever a new discipline surfaces, people resist and sometimes don't respect it because there is no strong research to substantiate its relevance. However, over some time, people start accepting and respecting the discipline. For example, many people initially did not take management as a discipline seriously and expressed their reservations. Today, management as a discipline is a reality and a respectable position. Similarly, soft skills will evolve as a discipline once more research is done.

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an international leadership guru with 42 years of experience and the author of 52 books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You.’

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