By Corporate English Solutions

20 May 2024 - 15:38

Two adults laughing as they work together

Soft skills are taking on an increasing importance in today’s dynamic workplace landscape, They’re the key to progressing and succeeding in today’s non-linear career paths, enabling adaptability, collaboration and performance in diverse and evolving roles.

But getting started can feel daunting.

By following our four-step, structured process, you can break planning and implementation down into manageable chunks, tackle tasks step-by-step, and feel confident about getting it all done.


Reading time: 8 minutes

How much value does your organisation place on technical training versus soft skills training? Take a moment to think and put a rough percentage on it – 50-50? 60-40?

Our survey shows that the balance has tipped in the favour of soft skills. In today’s challenging and dynamic working environment, it’s no surprise that 83% of organisations place equal or more emphasis on soft skills development, with 35% prioritising soft skills over technical training. 

And soft skills are key to progressing and succeeding in today’s non-linear career paths. With specialisations, lateral moves, projects and cross-functional teamwork joining traditional promotions, soft skills are the ‘power skills’ of career paths, enabling adaptability, collaboration and performance in diverse and evolving roles.

But getting started can feel daunting. 

Implementing soft skills assessments can be complex and time-consuming, making it feel overwhelming. By following a structured process, you can break planning and implementation down into manageable chunks, tackle tasks step-by-step, and feel confident about getting it all done.

Read on for our practical four-step guide, packed with tips you can use right away to ensure your soft skills assessments provide valuable insights for both your organisation and the individuals in it.

Step 1:  Review and update skills frameworks in line with career paths

Ensure your organisation's skills frameworks incorporate the soft skills that matter to each job role and career stage. Work closely with a range of stakeholders, particularly those currently in the roles and their managers, to identify crucial skills.

Map out expected competency levels across all career paths, ensuring skill progression as roles advance. Provide specific examples to illustrate how each soft skill can be demonstrated, helping teams grasp what excellence entails.

Communicate expected skills, competencies, capabilities, and proficiency levels for different career paths to all stakeholders. Integrate these into job descriptions, training courses, and performance enablement initiatives to enhance clarity, consistency, and alignment.

Step 2: Develop or select assessment criteria

Once you’ve got clear, detailed skills frameworks, you’re ready for step 2 - developing or selecting assessment criteria.

Opt for standardised soft skills assessment tools to keep things consistent. Use behavioural assessments, simply knowing about a skill doesn’t necessarily mean people can effectively apply them in real-world situations. Make sure the criteria align with your skills frameworks and measure specific degrees of proficiency and frequency. Explore how flexible the criteria are – can you adapt them to fit specific job roles, career stages, cultural differences and your organisation's goals and values? You may need to revise assessment content, adding or removing items, or tweak the wording to suit your organisation and context.

Ensure the tool provides clear and accessible scoring guides or rubrics to enhance transparency and support consistency among assessors. Review how clear, detailed and accessible the phrasing is to support facilitate accurate evaluations, reduce ambiguity, and provide actionable feedback for skill improvement.

Don’t forget to involve stakeholders in the review process. That means bringing in assessors, managers and individuals who will be measured, to create an open dialogue about what’s expected at every level. Communicate criteria widely, empowering individuals to understand expectations, set meaningful development goals, and progress towards their career aspirations.

Step 3: Select assessment methods to match your context and goals

With strong foundations built, you can now move onto creating or selecting assessment types that best meet your objectives and fit with your organisation’s context. And – most important – select methods that match diverse career paths at each career stage. 

What’s important when selecting soft skills assessment types? Create an evaluation framework and ask yourself these key questions:

• What are your assessment goals at each career stage? Do you need formative assessment to identify strengths skills gaps and support skill development? Do you need summative assessment for reporting, decision-making, credentialling and certification?

• What evidence is there that the assessment methods are reliable and valid? Accurately, consistently measuring the targeted skills over time and across varied contexts is crucial. 

• How easily will the different assessment methods be accepted in your organisation? Do they align with your culture and values? Will teams actively engage with them, embrace their insights and use them for growth?

• Are they practical, easy to administer and fit with your available budget, resources and time? Avoid those which are overly burdensome, resource-intensive, or time-consuming may not be practical to include. 

Remember all assessment methods – from formal tests to simulations, observations, case studies, on-the-job evaluations and performance monitoring, work portfolios and behavioural interviews – can provide valuable insights at every career stage. And by gathering data from a range of sources, you can gain a diverse perspective on skills. Think self-assessment, tests, manager, peer and instructor feedback.

However, some assessment types are particularly useful at different career stages:

  Early Career Mid-Career Late Career
Key characteristics May have limited experience May have been promoted, or taken a lateral move or specialist role with increasing responsibility May have moved into hihgly complex specialist and/or leadership role
Key goal Lay strong foundations for future success Take on new/more responsibility, complex tasks, and lead projects Make an impact, attract xx package, achieve ultimate career goal
Useful assessment types
Summative tests and formative assessments X X X
Performance monitoring X X X
Work samples and portfolio reviews X X X
360-degree feedback X X X
Case studies, simulations and role plays X X X
Behavioural interviews X X  
On-the-job observations X X  
Psychometric tests   X X
Assessment centres     X

By including a variety of assessment types, you’ll achieve a comprehensive and balanced assessment approach which covers the breadth and depth of the targeted skills – and you can adjust where needed. 

Step 4: Ensure assessments are fair and objective

With a wide range of assessment tools mapped to particular roles and career stages, there’s one final consideration: equity and inclusivity.

Check tools for any language, images, or examples that might come across as discriminatory or exclusionary. Keep cultural differences and norms in mind, and steer clear of questions or scenarios that could be culturally biased. To make the process fairer for everyone, offer a choice of methods for participants to showcase their skills, accommodating different learning styles. And don't forget to provide accommodations for those with disabilities or specific needs, so everyone can fully take part in the assessment.

Include assessors from diverse backgrounds and experiences to help minimise biases. Plus, make sure to train your assessors and stakeholders on diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias. This training can highlight why these factors are so important in the assessment process and show how biases can affect outcomes. By doing all this, you're creating a more inclusive and fairer environment for everyone involved.


Embrace the power of soft skills assessments. When you choose assessment strategies tailored to your organisation’s needs and today’s non-linear career paths, you gain valuable insights into individuals’ strengths, areas for improvement, and readiness to advance in their careers.

To get started, use our four-step process to simplify the task and ensure you're covering all the bases.

As employees navigate their career paths with confidence and purpose, they contribute to a thriving and dynamic workplace environment.

British Council has almost 90 years’ experience of partnering with organisations and individuals in over 200 countries to upskill their workforce for success. Using assessments and dashboards to track your employees’ skill development, we help you report on progress, training impact and ROI

Our Professional Skills programmes integrate soft skills assessment in learning solutions to ensure you gain important insights on your teams’ strengths, areas for improvement and progress.  From communication and conflict handling to interpersonal and intercultural skills, our targeted learning solutions deliver impact. 

Download our Corporate English Solutions brochure  or book a free consultation to learn more.