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A guest blog from Ken Norman, who is one half of New Tricks Training Ltd
I have been a trainer for fifteen years working with large, medium-sized and small organisations across the UK. I see that much emphasis is placed on the need for technical skills and attaining professionally-based qualifications.
Of course, if you’re a solicitor it makes sense that you need to know the law. If you’re a carpenter it’s a good idea that you know how to construct a dovetail joint and how to safely use your tenon-saw. And of course, if you’re a copywriter, you need to know how to write good marketing copy.
Where legislation dictates, companies seem prepared to invest in training. Health & Safety courses such as COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) are well subscribed.
But much training is done merely to tick a box.
What strikes me is the number of companies or even freelance workers that do not value (so-called) “soft skills” training. The term “soft skills” sounds disparaging to start with! It refers to training that addresses the difficulties of dealing with people. Those people might be staff, recruits, customers, potential clients, members of the public etc. and therefore is a very wide-ranging category. Within it I would include, Assertiveness, Customer Service, Selling Skills, Negotiation, Line-Management and Coaching to name but a few. It would make more sense if they were titled, “Essential Skills” Training.
What is the point of employing a technically competent lawyer who is unable to relate to clients? What is the point of being a well-trained carpenter if you’re not bringing in sufficient work to pay your mortgage?
And what of the copywriter? You might be able to write cracking copy and make your message fly, but if you can’t negotiate with your clients or deliver the right level of customer service, your business will suffer.
If you’re a freelancer, surely it makes sense to invest in training that helps you get more clients, sell to them, negotiate better rates and build better rapport with them.
If you’re an organisation, surely it makes sense to invest in training line-managers to get the best from their staff, to motivate them, coach them and develop their skills (technical and “soft.”) I see businesses spend a fortune on recruitment fees when a similar spend on existing staff would have improved retention, improved promotion prospects and created a career progression. Companies that do these things don’t need to spend money on recruitment fees. People queue-up to join them!
Owners of small businesses and particularly freelancer workers really need to invest in their “soft skills.” There’s no one to hide behind. There’s only so much you can outsource. It is a remarkable range of skills that you need to run a business. It’s unlikely that you’d be gifted in all. As you build your business on the skills and technical knowledge that you already have, you will find that there are other areas that need developing. It might be your time-management, your assertiveness with suppliers or simply your confidence.
It makes sense that you invest some time and money in developing your “soft skills” as well as your technical ones. In fact it’s essential. They’re essential skills.
Ken Norman is a director of New Tricks Training Ltd. He has many years of experience in the industry and has helped thousands of people learn communication skills, overcome their fear of public speaking and develop effectives sales and negotiation skills. Ken has worked extensively with some of the country’s largest organisations including Grant Thornton, NatWest, the National Trust, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
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