By Corporate English Solutions

31 July 2023 - 10:41

Power up your organisation: Scaling and delivering soft skills training

Can implementing soft skills training courses at scale be challenging? Unlike technical skills, soft skills can be intangible, difficult to define, develop and measure. And need ongoing support, practice and feedback. Both of which are difficult to sustain at scale. 

Yet soft skills hold the key to powering up your organisation for success now and in the future. Discover practical tips and how leading organisations are using these to scale and deliver soft skills training. And how you can do the same.


Reading time: 5 minutes

Imagine this: You’re part of a mission to future-proof your organisation. Scaling up soft skills training is a key part of this. Even more so now the rapid changes in automation and AI are increasing the importance and power of soft skills. Particularly how crucial they will be for the future of work. 

Skills like creativity, leadership, empathy and communication will be in high demand by 2027. And by 2030, Deloitte forecasts that “soft-skill intensive occupations” will account for two-thirds of all jobs. Simply put, there are some skills machines can’t replace. And that’s why soft skills development is critical to an organisation’s long-term success.

But implementing large-scale soft skills training courses has its challenges. Compared to technical skills, soft skills are often intangible – difficult to define and develop. Plus, soft skills development requires ongoing support, practice and feedback, which can be difficult to sustain at scale.

So, how can you effectively navigate the journey of scaling up soft skills training?

Let’s explore three valuable lessons learned from successful organisations. And how you can use them to overcome the challenge of implementing soft skills training at scale

Lesson #1: Ensure soft skills training is inclusive to engage diverse teams

Picture a workplace where everyone has the opportunity to develop soft skills to maximise their potential. Regardless of their level, background, experience or location. Mission impossible? Not exactly. 

Successful organisations effectively scale soft skills training by making it available to all and mandatory for everyone. It’s not enough to train a small percentage of employees while the majority continue with business as usual. But if you make soft skills training mandatory, it needs to engage diverse teams (not a select few).

Here are some powerful strategies that successful organisations use to ensure soft skills training is inclusive:

  1. Establish a shared understanding of concepts and terms: Create a common vocabulary and use behavioural indicators to describe soft skills in observable and measurable terms. Developing this clarity helps define expected levels of performance and objectively assess progress.
  2. Integrate diversity and inclusion goals: Incorporate objectives for diversity and inclusion into your scaling strategy. One approach involves increasing the representation of under-recognised groups in all soft skills training programmes. As this creates an inclusive learning environment that embraces diverse perspectives.
  3. Provide a range of content types: Maximise the use of different media formats for your learning content. Include a mix of videos, images, animations, blogs, articles and social and trainer-led learning to cater to a range of learning preferences.
  4. Ensure content suits different abilities: Check that your online platforms and LMS comply with standard accessibility guidelines. Provide alternative formats for materials such as braille, large print or audio-enabled versions for people with visual and hearing impairments. 
  5. Leverage the power of your LMS: Use an LMS to manage content and communications across different locations. This will ensure everyone receives access to the same learning opportunities, particularly for hybrid and remote teams.   

Spotlight: inclusive soft skills training in action

Consider the example of Kuok Singapore Limited, a diversified conglomerate operating globally. They take a cross-functional approach to ensure soft skills development is inclusive. Cross-business teams in customer-facing roles, technology, finance, HR and other functions learn a consistent set of soft skills and behaviours together in cohorts. And all new hires take part too. They are enrolled in the soft skills training courses as part of their induction.

Lesson #2: Make soft skills training relevant to different needs and contexts

 Another crucial element leading organisations understand is that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to soft skills training programmes. Unlike technical skills, which are often job-specific, soft skills like communication, leadership and problem-solving are transferable and valuable in diverse professional contexts. 

Ensuring soft skills training is relevant to these contexts enables employees to develop competencies that are directly transferable to their roles and responsibilities. And it helps them understand the direct impact of soft skills on their personal and professional growth. 

Here are some impactful strategies you can use to ensure soft skills training is relevant to the needs and challenges of your organisation:

  1. Involve local stakeholders: Start by engaging local teams, subject matter experts or partner with local organisations to ensure training examples and scenarios are relevant. Encourage participants to bring their own case studies and create opportunities for sharing their experiences and perspectives in training sessions. This approach is also useful for scaling training on a limited budget.
  2. Adopt a microlearning and modular approach: Break down training content into bite-sized modules that can be easily combined and arranged to meet learners’ specific needs and interests. Plus, applying this innovative learning strategy empowers individuals to take control of their own soft skills development.
  3. Customise learning pathways: Create customised personal learning paths based on the modular content. Tailor activities to suit different learning styles and focus on specific skills. High-performing organisations agree that a personalised learning approach also makes scaling training more efficient
  4. Nudge individual learners to encourage desired soft skills: Make use of push notifications to individual learners. If your LMS supports recommendation systems, use them to send personalised nudges based not only on skills gaps but also on individual learning preferences.

Spotlight: a peer-to-peer approach to making soft skills training relevant 

A great example of ensuring soft skills training is relevant to employees can be found at Google. They have an employee-to-employee network called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler), where over 6,000 employees volunteer to teach, mentor and design learning materials. The volunteer network reflects every department at Google, and it’s responsible for 80% of all trainings. The most popular g2g classes cover soft skills such as negotiations and leadership, allowing Googlers at all levels to benefit.

Lesson #3: Establish a strong learning culture to increase soft skills training impact

Soft skills development is a continuous journey of learning, practice and ongoing feedback. And one of the best ways to increase the impact of soft skills training is to build a strong learning culture

How do high-performing organisations benefit from a learning culture? And how is it linked to scaling soft skills training?

In a learning culture, the responsibility for skill development extends beyond formal training. It is considered a shared responsibility between individuals, managers and the organisation as a whole. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their learning journey, while managers provide guidance, support and opportunities for growth.

Here are some compelling ways you can effectively use a learning culture to drive the impact of soft skills training:

  1. Engage senior leadership: Leaders play a vital role in creating a supportive environment of continuous learning. When leaders actively participate in soft skills training programmes and champion their value, it sets a powerful example for the entire organisation.
  2. Plan for post-training support and activities early on: Consider how you will provide opportunities for employees to practice and apply their newly-acquired soft skills in the flow of work. Ask these key questions: How will the organisation support employees to practise and demonstrate soft skills improvement after training? Who will be responsible for post-training support and different activities? How exactly will learning outcomes be measured? 
  3. Integrate into performance management: Incorporate soft skills development into your performance management process to ensure ongoing reinforcement and continuous improvement. This can include setting goals and expectations for soft skills training, providing ongoing feedback and coaching to support progress towards those goals.

Spotlight: soft skills programmes that deliver measurable results

India’s Tata Tele Business Services (TTBS) demonstrates the power of a learning culture on scaling soft skills. Through a massive push to develop relevant future skills, its L&D team systematically created learning initiatives for all levels of its workforce. Over 80% of employees have completed behavioural skills training. Going further, all new hires complete a three-month structured soft skills course. 

Overall, Tata Tela has reported a remarkable 60% improvement in professional behavioural skills. And through its soft skills initiatives, it's one of the high-performing units of the Tata Group.

Next steps

Now it’s your turn. How will you apply the key lessons learned? You can start by assessing your current soft skills training initiatives and identifying any skills gaps or areas for improvement. By unlocking the power of soft skills, your organisation will be better prepared for the opportunities (and challenges) ahead.

British Council has partnered with corporate, education and government organisations worldwide for over 80 years to develop soft skills, enhancing engagement and collaboration, and boosting productivity and performance. Partner with us to unlock the learning power of soft skills in your teams.