Soft Skills to Cultivate for 2021 and Beyond

This year has put organizations, communities, governments, and individuals to the test. We’ve been pushed out of our comfort zones and forced to adapt to uncomfortable changes. Most of us have learned a lot, and many have begun to find their footing in the new normal. As we look ahead to next year and prepare to deal with similar challenges, it’s necessary to take stock of what we’re doing well and what we need to improve.

While many of us needed to cultivate new hard skills this year (like learning how to use Zoom to meet the immediate survival needs of the moment), there are other, softer skills that may help us thrive in the long-term.

Developing a systematic approach

If you’re a fast-paced individual who skims through emails and replies on the go, now would be a good time to check yourself. With emailing and messaging being a primary form of communication, your coworkers need you to slow down long enough to read the whole email and respond to each question. If you find yourself rushing through written documents, emails, and comments, it’s time to change up that behavior.

On that same note, make sure you’re intentional about how you reach out to your colleagues:

  • Are you the type to swing by someone’s desk and ask people small questions more than once a day? Stop and think before you send an email or a message.
  • Do you need to ask them right now? Do you think you might have follow-up questions? Consolidate your communication and be as thorough as you can the first time around.

That way, you’re not interrupting your coworkers more often than needed, and you’re allowing them to be as efficient as possible in their response.

Proactive learning

On that same note, being helpless when it comes to answering your own questions isn’t a good strategy. We need to become more self-sufficient and teach ourselves how to do things effectively. If you’re an “I don’t learn that way” type of person, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Just because you’ve done something one way for years doesn’t mean you can’t learn a new approach. And that is what this changing world demands of us.

Don’t know how to use that program? Look up classes online. Ask Google. Watch how-to YouTube videos.

There is a world of information at your fingertips; “not knowing how to do something” isn’t a viable excuse anymore. To stay ahead of the game and function effectively in your role, it’s time to stop being stubborn and get yourself in a learner’s mindset. New solutions, new programs, new approaches all take effort to learn.

So be prepared to make an effort and choose to do it before you absolutely must.

Time management

Working from home can soften your routines and blur the lines between work life and home life. This can make it difficult to set boundaries around your time, take breaks, or even stay on task. Most people haven’t had practice working from home since they were in school and had homework.

Even if you’re not struggling to get work done, your coworkers might be juggling children at home or other challenges that make it difficult for them to manage their time. Make extra sure you’re getting things to people when they need them. Also, know how and where they rely on you. Be conscious and intentional about your approach to your time. Make adjustments and advocate for your (or your team’s) needs when necessary.

Strong written communication

With more communication taking place over email and channels like Slack, it’s incredibly important to write in an exact, concise, and grammatically correct way. Don’t make it difficult for people to understand your emails. Don’t leave them guessing what you mean.

Make an effort to learn etiquette for email, Slack, and other communication channels. It can be difficult to convey tone through writing, so be intentional.

Don’t send an email with a question in the subject line and six question marks in the body. At the very least, say hello and wish them a good day. Without some personal engagement, you risk upsetting someone, coming off as rude, or looking unprofessional. Everyone deserves this: your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your employees—everyone.

You wouldn’t scream at your coworkers, so leave out all caps words unless that’s what you want them to think. Writing is your new voice. Treat it with respect and consideration, or you’ll end up with bad results.

It’s on you 

In the end, it’s on us to figure out what works best. It’s on us to adapt and learn new tools. It’s on us to show up every day and give 100%. Sitting around in frustration about all the things you have to learn isn’t going to help you. Take responsibility for your success. Ask for help when you need it, and rely on yourself when you can. In times of change comes growth, it’s up to us to decide whether we grow or get left behind.

 

Photo by kristo74

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

The Power of Permission

What is it that holds you back? What pushes your employees or peers to burn themselves out? What halts growth and stifles innovation? What keeps cultures from overcoming periods of apathy? Some might point to poor company culture, faulty leadership, or even personal mental health and wellness. But one thing ties them all together—permission.

When we don’t feel like we have permission to do things that need to be done, we hold back and force ourselves into doing something unnatural. And that unnaturalness forms tension between two opposing things: what we are doing vs. what we should be doing.

Now, more often than not, permission is given tacitly. Meaning no one tells us we have permission to take the day off when we need the rest (except maybe during the onboarding process). It’s either built into the culture, or it isn’t. Sometimes, even if it is built into the culture, we don’t allow ourselves permission out of pure habit, fear, or uncertainty.

But whatever the cause, the bottom line is we need permission. We need it to maintain wellbeing at work, try new things freely, follow our gut, and actively confront difficult problems. Permission is needed if we want our organizations to have a healthy growth rate, our employees to have a healthy work-life balance, and our values and vision to withstand change.

For leaders

You may think your employees feel like they have the permission they need to:

  • Take time off work
  • Advocate for their needs (physical, mental, personal, and professional)
  • Try new processes
  • Challenge their leaders
  • Confront issues they see within the organization

But ask yourself: are you sure? How are you sure? Do you expressly permit your employees to do these things? Do their managers? Is it written in your company values? If you’re not sure, then your organization could probably benefit from a refresher.

Some red flags can help you identify when employees need permission. Suppose you have more than one (or even one) employee burning themselves out, consistently working long hours, or taking on too many things. In that case, they probably feel like they don’t have permission to say no to taking on more responsibility, taking the time they need for themselves, or asking for help.

If you want to remind your employees (or tell them for the first time) they have your support in doing these things, try:

  1. Telling them in a one-on-one or company-wide meeting
  2. Training your managers to work it into the onboarding process
  3. Writing it into your company values
  4. Acknowledging or celebrating employees who set an example
  5. Sending it in an email, writing it on the wall, shouting it from the rooftops

However you go about it, remember people often need to be reminded of what is allowed. Don’t fail to do so. Keep it in the conversation, add it to your company employee survey, bring it up wherever and whenever you can. It takes time to unlearn habits of keeping their heads down, keeping quiet, and avoiding asking for things. As a leader, work with your employees to gradually build their sense of permission.

And don’t forget to set the example. Don’t be afraid to tell your team when you need time off or that you’re comfortable asking for help when you need it.

For individuals

We’ve all had jobs where we felt we had to show up when we were sick or couldn’t take time off when we needed it. We’ve had managers who got mad at us for needing help or refused to listen to new ideas. There are far too many people working too many hours because they don’t feel they can advocate for their needs.

The fact is, sometimes you need to give yourself permission. If no one is doing it for you, do it yourself. And if you can’t do it, then here you go. Repeat after us:

You are allowed to take time off when you need it. You have permission to ask for help. You have permission to confront issues. You have permission to say no to more work. You have permission to quit any job that doesn’t give you permission to do these things. You have permission to ask for a raise and to tell your boss you deserve a promotion. You have permission to follow your gut. You have permission to fail.

For each other

As a society, we haven’t done a great job teaching people their needs are just as important as their jobs. We haven’t done an excellent job raising people to feel free to take time off or say when they’re overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon to feel like admitting you’re overwhelmed or need a break is like saying you can’t do the job. It feels like failure to admit these things to ourselves, much less each other, and even less to our bosses.

But if we don’t encourage people to advocate for their needs or take a day off without feeling guilty and afraid their positions will be negatively affected, we’re building an extremely fragile foundation for our success. For our organizations to succeed, we need our people to succeed. And for our people to succeed, we need to build a culture that allows them to meet their needs, guilt-free.

 

Photo by Lindsay Helms

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Creating Habits in Times of Craziness

Being a working parent was already a juggling game before the pandemic hit. Most successful working parents rely on some sort of routine to help them navigate their dual roles at work and at home. And when those routines get jostled, or, in this case, completely wiped out, they are thrown for a loop.

Insert one or more children running around your home (now office), who would typically be in school, and BAM, it can become straight-up chaos. Even as things begin to open back up, it’s still very likely that young children do not have summer camps to go to, leaving them at home or having to find them childcare.

As an employer, your mind is continuously running over all of the things that need to get done. So how do you keep yourself and your employees on track, even in times of unprecedented disruption? Here’s the simple answer: stop trying to control everything, and start focusing on top priorities and quality results.

You may try to create some sort of routine for your day and yet, end up in an entirely different place than you planned. While controlling everything isn’t going to help you, there are things that will.

As an employer

  • Set one routine you can stick to each day. Whether that’s getting up early to get a workout in, meditating, planning your day, or taking some time at the end of the day to re-organize your thoughts for the next day, pick one thing you can stick to each day.
  • There is no better time than now to prioritize what needs to get done for your business vs. all the little things that seem necessary but might not be. How can you prioritize? Write down all of your activities and categorize them top, middle, and bottom.
  • If you create no other habits, consistently looking at your priorities will change your way of thinking and keep you on track. Do that every day, and you’ll be amazed at the changes in the way you look at things. Ask yourself daily, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me to where I want to be?”
  • Give yourself grace. This doesn’t mean getting rid of discipline or letting yourself get comfortable. It does mean recognizing that everyone right now is dealing with a new routine and processing it differently. Allowing yourself the grace to move through this will make a huge difference.

For your employees

  • Have them answer some simple questions each week to gauge where they are with their priorities. This way, you both feel good about what they are doing. It’s also a huge opportunity to evaluate their challenges and see if there is anything you could help with.
    • What is the ONE thing they want to accomplish in the coming week?
    • Did they accomplish their ONE thing from last week?
    • What was their greatest success over the past week?
    • What was their most significant challenge over the past week?
    • What priority were they able to accomplish?

Having your employees focus on one thing they want to accomplish allows them to feel successful when they’ve achieved it. Encourage them to make it something that adds a little challenge to their week and makes them feel good about their achievement.

Give them grace. As an employer, it’s easy to want every one of your employees to have the same feeling toward your company as you do and work the same number of hours you regularly put in. Although some do, everyone is in a different season of life and might not have the same time or capacity. Giving yourself and your employees grace has never been more important.

Check-in with your employees more than you typically would. Not to see what they are doing, but to see how they are doing. Support is something so many of us need right now; knowing that you’re there for them makes all the difference.

Creating habits in our previous normal was a challenge, so creating them now makes it all the more difficult – but it can be done. For some, there might not be a better time than now to create those habits for success.

 

Photo by Gajus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Creating Habits in Times of Craziness

Being a working parent was already a juggling game before the pandemic hit. Most successful working parents rely on some sort of routine to help them navigate their dual roles at work and at home. And when those routines get jostled, or, in this case, completely wiped out, they are thrown for a loop.

Insert one or more children running around your home (now office), who would typically be in school, and BAM, it can become straight-up chaos. Even as things begin to open back up, it’s still very likely that young children do not have summer camps to go to, leaving them at home or having to find them childcare.

As an employer, your mind is continuously running over all of the things that need to get done. So how do you keep yourself and your employees on track, even in times of unprecedented disruption? Here’s the simple answer: stop trying to control everything, and start focusing on top priorities and quality results.

You may try to create some sort of routine for your day and yet, end up in an entirely different place than you planned. While controlling everything isn’t going to help you, there are things that will.

As an employer

  • Set one routine you can stick to each day. Whether that’s getting up early to get a workout in, meditating, planning your day, or taking some time at the end of the day to re-organize your thoughts for the next day, pick one thing you can stick to each day.
  • There is no better time than now to prioritize what needs to get done for your business vs. all the little things that seem necessary but might not be. How can you prioritize? Write down all of your activities and categorize them top, middle, and bottom.
  • If you create no other habits, consistently looking at your priorities will change your way of thinking and keep you on track. Do that every day, and you’ll be amazed at the changes in the way you look at things. Ask yourself daily, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me to where I want to be?”
  • Give yourself grace. This doesn’t mean getting rid of discipline or letting yourself get comfortable. It does mean recognizing that everyone right now is dealing with a new routine and processing it differently. Allowing yourself the grace to move through this will make a huge difference.

For your employees

  • Have them answer some simple questions each week to gauge where they are with their priorities. This way, you both feel good about what they are doing. It’s also a huge opportunity to evaluate their challenges and see if there is anything you could help with.
    • What is the ONE thing they want to accomplish in the coming week?
    • Did they accomplish their ONE thing from last week?
    • What was their greatest success over the past week?
    • What was their most significant challenge over the past week?
    • What priority were they able to accomplish?

Having your employees focus on one thing they want to accomplish allows them to feel successful when they’ve achieved it. Encourage them to make it something that adds a little challenge to their week and makes them feel good about their achievement.

Give them grace. As an employer, it’s easy to want every one of your employees to have the same feeling toward your company as you do and work the same number of hours you regularly put in. Although some do, everyone is in a different season of life and might not have the same time or capacity. Giving yourself and your employees grace has never been more important.

Check-in with your employees more than you typically would. Not to see what they are doing, but to see how they are doing. Support is something so many of us need right now; knowing that you’re there for them makes all the difference.

Creating habits in our previous normal was a challenge, so creating them now makes it all the more difficult – but it can be done. For some, there might not be a better time than now to create those habits for success.

 

Photo by Gajus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Why Your Company Needs a Professional Development Plan

Several key factors always hover on the list of employer concerns in nearly every industry. Employee engagement and productivity are almost always on the list as turnover rates, profits, efficiency, and customer experience are directly related to both. Which makes them critical factors contributing to a business’s lifespan, stability, growth, and health. 

Despite engagement and productivity’s nearly permanent spots on that list, it’s common for businesses to address the two with a one-and-done approach. This is especially true for small businesses that lack a significant budget for employee experience. But providing employees with a benefits package and break room won’t go very far in encouraging real engagement in their work.  

Employees need more than having their basic needs met to feel engaged. They need to see a direct investment in their success as your employee and as an individual. A vast majority of millennials say they want career development opportunities from their jobs.   

recent report by Axonify exposes the gap between what employees want and what businesses are providing them. Their principal findings include: 

  • Nearly a third of employees fail to receive formal workplace training 
  • A quarter of employees don’t receive training after onboarding
  • Almost 60% of employees fail to receive additional training and skill development from their employers  
  • 81% of employees say training makes them feel more engaged and happy at work 

It’s cost-effective 

While many employers are ignoring training as a benefit for their employees, providing training and professional development is an incredibly smart tactic for boosting profits.   

Giving employees opportunities for skill development and training can have a massive impact on the value they contribute. Businesses that provide formalized training can more than double their income per employee than companies that don’t.  

Investing in employee skills is investing in the agility and strength of your company. It creates a stronger relationship between company and employee, encouraging loyalty and engagement, which can lower turnover rates. The cost of turnover alone should be a driving factor in implementing strategies to keep your employees learning and engaged.  

Losing an employee can cost 1.5-2x their annual salary. Yet, it can cost between $135 – $750 for an individual community college course, depending on the length of the class. That’s a reasonably small investment compared to the cost of losing an employee or maintaining unproductive employees.  

Now is the time 

The beautiful thing about living in our age of technology is our access to resources. There are seemingly endless ways companies can provide learning opportunities to their employees. Online learning databases like SkillshareAlison, and Udemy are all options employees can access for learning and development in their own homes.   

Now that a vast amount of the world is learning to work from home, there is no better time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Not only will it give your employees a chance to grow and develop their skills and what they can offer your company, but it may also help address the feelings of isolation and culture loss that many are struggling with during the pandemic.  

An investment into a shared future  

Providing learning development opportunities isn’t just a way to engage your employees—it’s a value statement that can have ramifications across your company culture and employee experience.  

You’re not only investing in the potential of your employees to grow their roles within your company, but you’re telling them you think they are capable of that growth. Show them you value their contribution and also their potential as a professional.  

Having confidence in the power and potential of your employees will lead them to see the value within themselves and feel that their value is recognized. It will create a relationship of trust and confidence that is irreplaceable. It will save money. It will save time. And it will inspire growth in the deepest level of your business. There is nothing to lose but disengagement and apathy.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov