Soft skills have, at times, been undervalued by companies in favour of hard skills — knowing how the nuts and bolts of an industry are put together, having specific degrees and vocational certificates and so forth. However, the rise of automation means that soft skills are back in high demand, and seemingly, the value businesses place on well-developed soft skills will only increase as automation continues to be applied across more business functions.
Soft skills are, essentially, the edge that human beings have over robots and artificial intelligence (AI) programmes. Soft skills are what facilitates effective collaborative work, and what allows for nuanced judgements to be made that could prevent a company from falling into traps.
From a business perspective, and to some degree an employee perspective, this is good news. People’s jobs are to be people, to use their judgement, and their interpersonal skills, while automation deals with a lot of the more mundane aspects of industry — businesses benefit from automated processes which are more accurate, and can provide employees with more satisfying, more stimulating work. Additionally, gamification makes developing soft skills for employees far easier than it used to be.
What is gamification?
Gamification is the application of game mechanics and features to typically less playful contexts to improve user engagement. Think about anything that might be boring, or difficult, or that people could struggle to motivate themselves for, and make it into a game. Everybody wants to be a winner, nobody wants to be a loser. You gamify a process, like marketing, or education, or training, and if it’s done effectively, you’re guaranteed to get better results out of participants than falling back on traditional methods. Gamified content makes people into better learners, better consumers, and better employees. This is because people love to play. People have a natural desire to compete, and to progress, and to discover, and it’s these motivations that you can use gamification to tap into to improve user engagement.
Modern gamification for training takes the form of online games, and while it does have some constraints, as a practice, it’s never been more accessible or more effective than it is today. In the early 2000s, sophisticated and effective gamification was only in the hands of powerful multinational companies with seemingly bottomless war chests for developing convention-defying approaches to their training and marketing, utilising the latest technology and innovations to engage audiences. Today, you can create more advanced games by fully customising tried-and-trusted pre-made game engines on the Drimify gamification platform. You can include your graphics, your copy, and fully tailor the game engines to your purposes easily, and with no coding experience or inhouse technical expertise.
From the perspective of building courses and modules to train employees and improve their soft skills, the current state of modern gamification is incredibly well-suited to the task. While the inclusion of powerful virtual reality and integrated AI features in their design could (and in time, will) improve it and make it even more effective, current hyper-connected mobile technology allows companies to massively reap the benefits of gamification when it comes to developing soft skills.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are non-technical and personal competencies related to an employee or candidate’s personality, and the way they work and interact with others. Unlike “hard” skills, soft skills are not about the knowledge one possesses, but rather about the behaviours one adopts in different business situations. These skills dictate how a person interacts with colleagues, solves problems, and manages his or her work. Soft skills differ from aptitude, which is more akin to natural talent, something a candidate is born with. While soft skills are often a product of one’s upbringing and development, and can form a part of someone’s personality, they can be developed and improved through further learning and training.
In the context of business and HR pertaining to soft skills, the objectives of gamification can vary from assessing the existing soft skills of applicants for vacant roles, to developing the existing soft skills of employees. By implementing a robust and thorough gamification strategy, companies can massively improve their approach to hiring candidates already possessing strong soft skills, as well as develop the soft skill sets of their existing workforce.
What are the 4 categories of soft skills?
Professionals recruiting new talent are increasingly looking for candidates with multiple soft skills. Job advertisements and interviews are placing more emphasis on soft skills, many of which are considered essential for success in particular roles, and can be considered transferable across different industries, business functions, and scenarios.
Gamification is an increasingly popular tool used by human resources departments during their recruitment campaigns to identify soft skill-rich talent. For example, customised Quizzes and Personality Tests can be used to assess how a candidate would handle job-specific challenges they might encounter should they be successful. This allows recruiters to gather data on applicants, and gives a hard measure against which to compare their performances in other areas of the hiring process.
Soft skills can broadly be broken down into 4 distinct categories:
The soft skills of written and verbal communication are essential, as they help people interact effectively with the various different people you meet through the course of their jobs. They’re what allow employees to establish solid working relationships and to exert influence, and effectively contribute and debate important business decisions. A candidate who has exceptional communication skills would not only be able to express themselves eloquently in writing and in speech, but be able to adjust their communications depending on who they were talking to.
For example, if they were approaching a client or a potential collaborator, they would be able to be formal and professional, and be able to add just the right level of humour or playfulness to make the interaction memorable and positive. If they were in a customer facing situation, and dealing with an unhappy customer or even a complaint, they would be able to adopt the right tone and language to express understanding and concern to help facilitate a resolution (in the complaint scenario, they would also require some good problem solving skills, although effective communication lays the foundation here). If they were in a more technical role and were also an excellent communicator, they would be able to tailor their answers to questions inline with the other person’s level of technical knowledge so as to be productive, such as if they were speaking to someone from marketing, or a member of the press.
In the world of work, a company is constantly evolving, and trends are always changing. Employers will feel more confident with employees who can adapt to these changes and are proactive in their learning.
For example, during a global emergency, such as the COVID lockdowns in 2020, many businesses, and by extension, their employees, faced completely changed ways of working to survive as a business. Here, employees who were adaptable and flexible, and capable of adjusting to new situations and methodologies quickly would have shown their value.
High performing employees in this particular category of soft skills also tend to perform well whenever a company undergoes a large digital transformation, and migrates their services and processes over to new systems.
Critical thinking and problem solving
Critical thinking and problem solving involves the objective analysis of information and the formulation of a judgement or solution. These two soft skills in one refer to the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve problems and overcome challenges in the workplace.
Companies value the ability of employees to offer fresh ideas and perspectives and to make good decisions on their own, sometimes under pressure, without needing the advice of their colleagues. The ability to assess a situation and develop a well-thought-out solution within a reasonable time frame is also a skill that is highly valued and demanded of candidates.
While this is in some ways the most advanced of all soft skills, it is also probably the easiest to train employees in through gamification. By creating a Dynamic Path™, which allows you to create a training or learning pathway consisting of multiple videos, audio files, Quizzes, and games, you introduce employees to a decision making framework, and then invite them to apply what they’ve learned to realistic business scenarios. You could even ask them to solve simulated problems based on events that have happened in your industry to assess how they’re taking on the information and developing their problem solving skills. This form of gamification is known as a serious game — it’s a game with a serious purpose, rather than being purely for entertainment. It has no consequences outside of play, but prepares participants for real challenges.
Leadership and teamwork
Depending on their position in the company, an employee may have to make important decisions, deal with difficult situations, and work with many people. Leadership skills are therefore important, and the ability to effectively lead a team can help to build closer relationships with colleagues.
Play and develop your soft skills
In a gamified world, you may be regularly confronted with failure, which, as the Chinese proverb says, “ is the mother of success.”. This is one of the reasons why gamified training is becoming increasingly popular. The opportunity for students to repeatedly tackle problems or questions and learn each time from their mistakes is incredibly valuable.
A common expression you’ll hear in retail jobs or fast food jobs when training staff is, “You need to do this job wrong a few times to learn how to do it right.” Unfortunately, for a lot of professions, doing something wrong once, let alone twice, in reality could prove to be a disaster. Gamification in the form of serious games allows people the opportunity to get something wrong a few times so they can learn to do it right.
By putting an employee in a game situation, and therefore potentially in a situation of failure, companies can test and develop their soft skills.