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In a lot of organizations today, there is a heavy emphasis on the development of “hard” skills, and this is especially true for those in IT and tech roles. These hard skills and technical knowledge derived from certifications and work experience are necessary for organizations to maintain a competitive advantage and for employees to progress in their careers. After all, 76 per cent of IT departments are facing critical skills gaps with the biggest areas of need including cybersecurity, cloud, and data management. However, a lack of “soft” or “power” skills can hinder IT professionals and their respective organizations.
Skills like leadership, effective and empathetic communication, teamwork, time management, motivation, and adaptability, which were traditionally viewed as “soft skills” have gained a new name befitting their importance: “power skills.” According to Skillsoft’s 2022 IT Skills and Salary report, the single most important skill for IT leaders is team communication, followed by interpersonal communication. These skills are top assets in today’s workplace and 63 per cent of employers would hire someone with power skills and then train them on the technical aspects of the job.
So, how exactly do you develop power skills?
By adapting your training and L&D practices to become more personalized and inclusive of each learner. IT professionals who are doing business and leadership training need to be invested in the process and program. When this happens – when they have a say in their future – engagement spikes.
Here are some tips to do this:
Be a guide to leadership
Everybody’s path to leadership looks different, and it’s not always clear what lies ahead. For learners, they may have a goal in mind – such as getting into leadership or taking on new responsibilities. But do they know how to get there? The answer is likely “no.”
That’s where managers come in. Help draw a roadmap to reaching that goal, including what training or resources may help, what progression and success look like, and more. For IT professionals, in particular, advancement sometimes looks more like a matrix than climbing a ladder. Making lateral moves exposes them to more of the business to help employees acquire skills and experience in other areas that complement technical expertise.
Recognize progress and achievements
Rewarding an individual for their dedication to learning shouldn’t happen at the very end when they’ve reached the goal. Rather, constant motivation and incremental recognition along the way should be the goal to help sustain momentum and enthusiasm.
At Skillsoft, learners who complete a course earn digital badges that they can proudly display. They’re a symbol of a job well done and a way to validate progress. In addition to badges, point systems or elements of gamification can be equally valuable to encourage a little friendly competition.
Follow-up and follow-through
Candidates must be involved in what they want to learn and how. Depending on their age, background, experience and several other factors, training and learning will look different. That’s where communication comes in. Put the learner at the center of training and allow them to take the path that best fits their situation.
Equip them with the training they may need, whether that’s self-paced learning, mentorship, micro-learning, hands-on opportunities, and assessments. Offer the method that they find will best reinforce knowledge and skills. And lastly, get to know the learner as an individual and personalize the journey.
IT leaders must look at development holistically for their teams, emphasizing power skills like managing virtual work and teams, communication, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As the workforce becomes more distributed and diverse, these become essential for success.
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