As the education and professional worlds shift toward embracing a new technological future where artificial intelligence is at the forefront of task creation and management, many speculate what role learners and workers will hold in this new reality. Since they are harder to automate, perhaps one of the most important elements of differentiation remains soft skills.

Soft skills continue to be seen as the most vital and fundamental abilities that technological advancements cannot replicate. Learners moving through the education system, workers entering the workforce, and organizations looking to remain at the forefront of their industries all need to cultivate soft skills further.

Fostering and enhancing these soft skills, however, requires deliberate effort from both the instructor and the learner. One area where technological enhancements have positively impacted soft skills has been the ability to cultivate and engage this process through virtual classroom platforms. Recently, we partnered with ATD for a webinar featuring industry-leading panelists to discuss this topic, among other important issues.

L&D’s most pressing issue isn’t AI

While most industries are scrambling to figure out how to embrace AI or brace for its impact, the reality for learning and development experts is that cultivating this skill is not the most important ability workers and organizations should be spending their time on. Instead, it’s soft skills.

My colleague Ed Miller, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Class, notes, “What is the most pressing issue that your organization and L&D is facing? I'm thinking, like everyone else in technology is thinking, ‘Oh, I'm sure it's got to be AI. How are we dealing with AI? AI, AI, AI.’ And I was wrong. It was truly upskilling and reskilling around soft skills. I think that AI is certainly on the horizon and coming at us quickly, but, fundamentally, this still remains, what was a top issue before the pandemic and is even more so post-pandemic, I think, is looking at reinvigorating and reskilling, upskilling around soft skills.”

Marsha Nuffer, Founder of BlueShore Talent and Leadership Development and former CLO of McKinsey & Company, adds, “The theory right now is that a lot of the mundane tasks of our lives will go away [with AI]. And what's going to be left is the human connection, human creativity, human problem-solving. All of the soft skills actually get more important in bigger parts of our roles as our time is freed up from more mundane stuff. And so, for that reason, as well, I think you're seeing soft skills get more and more important.”

Growing impact

Soft skills encompass a wide variety of educational and professional skill sets that are increasingly important in our roles. Miller points out, “When you look at, particularly, soft skills and you can see that if you look at things like not just interpersonal skills, but, say, management, training, leadership, and, even with, developing our executives…prior to the pandemic, the amount [of training] that was mostly or all online was relatively small, seven percent for executive development and sixteen, seventeen percent for soft skills and leadership. When you go forward to now, though, it's doubled. And so, I think everyone realizes that, but it's really important that we recognize these tools are here to stay.”

Real-world application and results

In addition to the importance of providing soft skills training by leveraging the interactive power of virtual classroom platforms, a newly available level of data analytics allows institutions and organizations to measure engagement, aptitude, and, ultimately, down-the-road success.

Miller provides a hypothetical example, “One of those [soft] skills [is] giving feedback, but nothing beats getting put on a one-on-one role play where you're actually working with someone through a scenario of giving feedback, being able to see their reactions to that. So, if we can measure how well you do in the asynchronous piece of that—you've done your module one—then, you're involved in this synchronous class where you're applying it in a in a real-time environment.”

“We can look at how engaged you were,” Miller continues, “and measure that data and everything from your participation in the learning activities. Then, ultimately, you [hopefully] have some sort of 360-degree feedback where you're getting feedback from your peers, the people you manage, those that manage you. We can now tie all that stuff together in a way that we couldn't previously and would have been really hard even for in-person learning experience because the question of engagement becomes much more subjective when you're not able to measure it. So I really think we have the tools [with virtual learning platforms].”

Tying it back to human connections

At its core, one of the reasons soft skills are such a differentiator against technological task takeover for learners and professionals is that there are cognitive and emotional requirements at work. Nuffer highlights this very point, “There's a way to do this [virtual training] on soft skills with elegant design, but it's got to have that emotional connection part of it where it feels personal, like you're getting insights and a pause at each of those moments.”

Upskilling and reskilling with soft skills

As soft skills become more and more valuable, especially in industries where automation is removing more basic elements of many individuals' jobs, properly upskilling learners and reskilling workers will not only enhance their professional skills and capabilities, but benefit the organizations that prioritize this process.
Ready to take your organization’s team members to the next level of their careers with soft skill training via a top-end virtual classroom platform? Reach out to a Class team member today and learn how Class can help you improve virtual training throughout your entire organization. Want to check out the full webinar? It’s available here.


Mike Lovell

Mike Lovell is the SVP of Marketing at Class. He has dedicated his career to technology and the applications that can innovate the way people live and learn.

Mike Lovell

Mike Lovell is the SVP of Marketing at Class. He has dedicated his career to technology and the applications that can innovate the way people live and learn.

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