Using Learning Technology to Drive Soft Skills Development for the Future of Work


The workplaces of the future are expected to demand a wide range of skill sets, of which soft skills remain a top priority amidst leading organisations. We explore how learning technology can help support soft skills development for the future of work.

Work, as we know, is changing andevolving at an alarming rate, so much so that there are growing fears of more jobsbeing lost to automation and advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence(AI), with over 37% individuals afraid of automation hijacking their jobs,according to a surveyby PwC.

And, the trends from past few yearsonly substantiate such fears, with increased workplace automation and uncertainwork placements driving the demand for a highly skilled workforce, one that isnot only proficient in advanced technical skills but also possesses the abilityto adapt and evolve with these changing trends. 

According to an analysis byUdemy, there is a strong emphasis on soft skills from leading organisations,based on the training courses their employees are required to take in order to havea better understanding of skills shortages. Whereas, The Future ofJobs report from World Economic Forum suggests that five years downthe line almost 35% of skills deemed critical today will inevitably change.

Technical skills or hard skillswill no doubt remain in high demand, but as technology takes care of most ofsuch hard skills, organisations will have to increasingly look at investing insoft skills, the likes of communication, critical thinking and creativity, leadershipand emotional intelligence. In essence, automation and the human workforce willbe expected to complement each other, rather than compete for relevance.

As a result,building a multi-skilled workforce, one with crucial soft skills, remains a toppriority for organisations, albeit it is also a key area of concern as statedin the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, with almost 46% respondents citing talent acquisition as acritical issue. So, it is upto Learning & Development (L&D) leaders and their respective organisationsto prioritise investments in the soft skills development of their workforce.

Role of Learning &Development

A report from Accenture Strategy states, “Paradoxically,the truly human skills, from leadership to creativity, will remain highlyrelevant and winning organisations will strike the right balance by leveragingthe best of technology to elevate, not eliminate their people… Creating thefuture workforce now is the responsibility of every CEO. Those leaders who maketheir people a strategic business priority and understand the urgency of thischallenge will be the ones that make the greatest gains in growth andinnovation.”

Clearly then, soft skills likelearning and adaptability will help ‘createa foundation for learning all other skills’, while they will also drive careerdevelopment and help individuals secure long term professional stability, andL&D professionals can support this by devising innovative and diverselearning programmes and leveraging existing and emerging learning technologysolutions.

However, there are criticalbarriers that obstruct the soft skills development process, with one of themajor challenges being that organisations would rather hire new individuals whoare already skilled in these ‘soft skills’ rather than upskill their existingemployees. And, major drivers of this practice are the rising attrition ratesaround the globe. Today’s modern employees (especially millennials) prefer organisationsthat care about their career development, whereas organisations just don’t wantto invest in the skilling of an employee if s/he will take those skillselsewhere within two years of employment.

While there is no definitive answerto this conundrum, a majority of the responsibility still rests on L&Dprofessionals to find the right balance where employees of the organisationfeel engaged, secure and committed towards their professional development aswell as the development of the organisation. Easier said than done? Yes. But,done it could be.

Leveraging Learning Technology  

There are several steps L&D professionalscan take to solve the critical challenge of soft skills development by focusingon improving the capabilities of existing employees, thereby minimizing the necessityof hiring external talent, and learning technology solutions like innovativeLearning Management Systems (LMSes) and learning ecosystems can further drivesoft skills development.

Albeit a TowardsMaturity Learning Benchmark report suggests that soft skills likeproblem solving, critical thinking and teamwork stand a lesser chance of being deliveredonline or electronically than courses on IT, compliance, health and safety etc.,Towards Maturity also identifies ‘high-achieving’ organisations that prefer usingtechnology to deliver these skills.

There are a number of learningtechnology solutions and training delivery methods that L&D professionalscan leverage, including Mobile Learning, Microlearning, Social Learning, amongmany others to deliver soft skills training to their workforce. The LearningBenchmark report also highlights the performance of a Blended Learning approachtaken by organisations who successfully improved efficiency by integratingtechnology into traditional (face-to-face) training; while over 84% organisationsare leveraging blended learning.

Here are few of the most important soft skills that will soon become the future hard skills, according to the London College of International Business Studies-

  • Creativity
    Creativity is the bedrock of innovation, and without innovation there cannot beprogress. However, it is important to note that a growth mindset is a prerequisitefor a creative mindset. While continuous learning paves the way for a growthmindset, learning technology is a perfect enabler of continuous learning, andtogether they can foster limitless creativity.
  • CriticalThinking
    Where machines can do a task much quicker, humans have the advantage ofcritically thinking about the possible outcomes arising out of it, whicheventually lends itself to good problem solving skills. Learn-tech solutions,especially LMes, can host ready-to-use courses (Off-the-Shelf courses) ondiverse topics, including Management & Leadership, Business Skills and manymore, which distill knowledge into such desired soft skills like criticalthinking and problem solving.
  • EmotionalIntelligence
    Empathy and understanding each other’s experiences is a strategic advantagefor humans to develop products that are more intuitive and meet the demands ofthe future generations. And, with the help of modern learn-tech solutions likeSocial Learning, developing emotional intelligence in the longer run becomeseasy and more efficient.                

  • Teamwork
    With technology reigning supreme, we will need to collaborate and work as ateam, often on a global scale with diverse people, demanding soft skills like teamworkand communication, which can be effectively achieved through an LMS that offersknowledge sharing and collaboration features.

In addition,learn-tech solutions and LMSes further enable many diverse learning opportunitiesthrough integration with popular content marketplaces, including Udemy,LinkedIn Learning and Lynda that can offer an ocean of knowledge for learning in-demandsoft skills.

Few jobs willinevitably be lost to automation and technology. However, our greatest strengthis our persistence and adaptability. There is no need to fear change, but to embraceit and empower people to build a more adaptable workforce, along with therequired soft skills they will need to compete for the future of work. And itall begins with investments in learn-tech.