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Human Skills for a Digital workplace

How to make sense of people, work tasks and manage business objectives in an online world
– Article by Pieter Nel

Looking back at my career of more than 30 years, I’ve found it interesting to reflect on which skills I have acquired and which skills I had to learn the hard way by making mistake after mistake.
My first qualification after matric was to obtain a B.SC degree in mathematics, followed by an Honours degree and then a few others. These however were all ‘hard skills’, especially from a mathematical perspective. It was the same during my IT career… Can you create a pivot table? Can you write a Macro? Can you program? Can you optimise a database?

Then my career suddenly progressed into a management role and then into an executive role. I was a terrible manager. I could not figure out why people could not just be like me. For a mathematician everything must be logical and there must be a simple reasoning process.

My first encounter with Softskills came many years later, when at age 37, I attended a Softskills training course for the first time in my career. Ironically, by this time I had already delivered several leadership training sessions to staff members. I thought that if I could figure out how to prove a complex mathematical theorem, I should easily figure out Softskills. This was a tremendous misconception on my part. Sadly, this may be a mistake made by many other leaders too.

The development of essential Human Skills for the workplace allows people to relate to one another with authenticity, compassion and empathy to form deeper connections, serving to build a strong foundation for innovation, adaptive thinking and collaboration in the workplace. Crucial ingredients for any organisation to grow.

In these times we live in right now, where evolving workplace arrangements have amplified the issue of how we relate to each other in the workplace, managers are faced with the dilemma of “How am I supposed to lead in a virtual world and how do I trust that my staff members are all equipped to know how to do their work in this virtual environment we work and live in?”.

If you are a leader where logic is key, then it’s important to be mindful that the attitude of “just get over yourself, we have work to do” – could injure your business and damage employee morale.

It is evident that employees have been truly impacted by this virtual world and some have lost their sense of belonging, leading to subsequent mental health problems. Some feel disengaged, others feel burnout due to not knowing when to switch off from work, and new hires feel disconnected from their teams.

I recently watched Simon Sinek’s YouTube video on the topic of why he hates the term “Softskills” as it creates the impression that these skills are somehow less important than ‘hard skills’. And I have to give him credit – We face a huge lack of Human Skills; the stuff that makes us better humans.

Work ‘norms’ are forever changed, and these challenges are likely to remain. As a learning organisation, here at Altron People Solutions, we have therefore decided to lean forward on this matter by creating a new range of training courses to develop Human Skills for the digital workspace. Content will include topics such as Critical Thinking, Crisis Management, Knowledge Management, Creative Thinking, Conflict Resolution, Active Listening, Negotiation Skills, Delegation skills, Process Improvement and many more

If I allow my mathematical brain to take over, then the key question when developing any training content, is how will we know if it is effective? A hard skill is rather simple – y+y = 2y, either right or wrong. However, when we develop training content for Human skills, it will only be successful if we see a change in behaviour. In our new offering we will therefore end every course with no more than five critical aspects that we want delegates to put into practice.

The course content will comprise of assessments that will provide insights on whether the delegate has tried the exercises, are they working, and most importantly what does the delegate feel they still require to achieve the desired outcome. This will be followed up by an hour session with a training group to provide feedback on the results obtained in this analysis.

Aside from the scheduled training workshops, we also offer organisations a comprehensive consultative process through our client engagement model (image below). This allows us to work with organisations to identify specific areas of concern in their business, unpacking the requirements and then tailor-making solutions to address those specific concerns.

As a leader, how are you working to develop Human Skills across your teams? In this digital age, it becomes even more important for individuals to be supported in developing these skills allowing businesses to succeed and thrive.

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more about this, please contact