Measuring the ROI of Soft Skills Training

By Mary Verstraete

There is a growing need for soft skills in today’s businesses. Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin. recently discussed the LinkedIn study that identified a lack of expertise in interpersonal skills across the job market. He stated: “The U.S. is short 1.4 million professionals with soft skills, with communication as the #1 skill in demand in all 100 metros we analyzed.”

With soft skills training occupying a place in company budgets, the importance of measuring ROI is pressing for Human Resources. In CCE’s training with companies, the recognition that communication is a major challenge is never questioned, but companies do want to know the “difference” that the training will make. This is one main reason we customize the application of coaching skills within a company’s context.

How to set up the process for soft skill measurement:
Key Performance Indicator [KPI] are activities that have to happen for successful measurement. For each activity the company identifies, there are competency requirements for that activity. Those requirements are listed. Communication training is applied directly to those activities and competency requirements. This then enables the company to track the ROI. Matthew MacLachlan, global talent developer, has this to say about ROI and soft skills:

The ROI of soft skills is often questioned but can easily be proved. It’s crucial that alignment to business needs is done up front with training, so that when you are asked retrospectively whether there has been value added, you have clear answers.

If we apply coach training to conflict resolution to help deal with angry customers, and a company can measure the customer losses both before and after the training, the company can then quantify the improvement and set it against the cost of the communication training.

Here is a partial list of how the benefits of soft skills can impact the bottom line and are easily measured:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved retention rates
  • Improved teamwork and customer service
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Better workplace communication and a higher level of employee engagement

Studies back up soft skill training. If we look at the 2013 Google testing of its hiring hypothesis analyzing 15 years of hiring, firing, and promotion information, it concluded that hard skills came in last in comparison to the seven top qualities of its top employees.

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view)
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  5. Being a good critical thinker and problem solver
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas
  7. STEM expertise (science, technology, engineering, math)

These findings create a strong argument for a company to investment in soft skills training as a “sound” and a “vital” investment.

There is a skills shortage in today’s economy and along with that a fight for talent—soft skills have never been more important! As coaches, we have a tremendous opportunity to validate coaching, maximize personal and professional potential, and support companies in being successful.