Soft skills are key for the success of teams in a complex environment. In a previous article, we have already identified the top soft skills required in agile teams. Now we can look at how to accelerate the development of soft skills in your teams with the tools provided in teammeter.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills refer to a set of personal and interpersonal abilities that enable effective work in a given environment. They are also called human or transversal skills as they are useful in any job and are not related to a particular business domain.
As they are linked to personal abilities, soft skills require more effort to learn than hard skills. When the CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella talks about Empathy, a key soft skill he says, “it’s the hardest skill we learn—to relate to the world, to relate to people that matter the most to us.”. We improve continuously our soft skills as they are related to our human experience.
Soft skills are situational: To assess soft skills, personal behaviors in a given situation must be assessed. So, they are harder to quantify than hard skills which can be assessed by testing knowledge.
Assessing Soft Skills in Health Checks
With the health checks in teammeter it is possible to assess expected behaviors by the team with online surveys. The Team Health Model contains the most important soft skills to be observed in effective teams.
For instance, for the soft skill “Empathy” the behavior for active listening is evaluated with the statement: “In discussion we listen attentively to other’s viewpoint.” This is concrete behavior that is much easier to understand for team members than the concept of Empathy.
The team can adapt the assessment to its team context. A team which is direct contact with customers will require more Empathy than a technical team which requires more Accuracy.
In Psychology, it is known that the evaluation of his own behavior is biased by its own wishes. People consider what we would like to do instead of seeing what we do. Therefore, teammeter uses statement in the “we” form, to let observe and evaluate the behaviors of others.
The advantage of evaluating the expression of the soft skill for the whole team is that you promote diversity. To be performant, a team does not require people with the same skill profile. What matters is how the team can react in a particular situation.
After having assessed the soft skills in a health check, the team can analyze the results during a retrospective and decide actions to improve them, for example by participating in a workshop about conflict resolution.
Soft skills in a Skill Matrix
The Skill Matrix in teammeter is very useful to identify skill gaps and to decide how to fix them in the team. By having soft skills in the skill matrix, it is possible to address the missing abilities and decide actions for employees.
As the soft skills are personal and hard to improve, adding soft skills in the skill matrix requires a great culture of transparency, openness and improvement. It can be indeed very frustrating for some team members to be compared with others in terms of personality traits.
It is up to the team to decide which soft skill can be added to the skill matrix or not. Skills which are tight to cognitive capabilities, like the learning ability, do not belong to a skill matrix. In the skills matrix should be only listed the skills which can be improved by actions.
It is important to give team members give a veto right when it is up to decide what skills should be part of the skill matrix. We are working on privacy settings, so that an employee can decide which evaluation can be shared with the team or with the coach.
The standard scale for assessing hard skills cannot be used for soft skills. There is not the same development path for soft skills, as you cannot say that you have an advanced level or expert level in Empathy.
In teammeter it is possible to change the skill scale for a particular skill. For soft skills you can use the scale “less pronounced” to “very pronounced”. Having a very pronounced soft skill means that you demonstrate in any situation the appropriate behavior.
An alternative scale for soft skills is the occurrence scale for observed behaviors from “rarely” to “in all situations”. For instance, for Empathy, the employee would assess himself and get feedback on his ability to understand the feelings of others in all situations.
Like for hard skills, the skill shortcomings are visible in the skill matrix, and the team can decide actions in a development plan for soft skills. For private skills, the employee can share his skill profile and show his learning progress.
Conclusion: Where to track the development of Soft Skills?
The question of which tool to use and for which skill is a team decision. The health check is a very good starting point to identify missing skills in the team and reflect on them. The skill matrix enables the team to assign training and challenges to employees to accelerate individual skill development. Making transparent levels of soft skills in a skill matrix requires a great openness in the team. The coach must listen attentively to the concerns of employees to make the right decision to promote effective development of soft skills.