Michigan Construction frequently works with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) and their Director of Workforce Development, Ken Bertolini to help inform, advance and connect individuals to the opportunities that our industry has to offer. We also work together in collaboration with other industry on programs including the Construction Science Expo, Michigan Construction Career Days, the Detroit Workforce of the Future.
Ken wrote a fantastic article about the importance of soft skills training for employers in the last issue of the MITA's Cross-Section Magazine this January 2019 that we wanted to share. Check it out!
We are all aware that our industry requires a degree of technical training, even at the most basic levels of our workforce, but one thing that is often overlooked when hiring as well as initial training after the hire are soft skills training and awareness. The need to focus on soft skills took me by surprise and the importance of making it a priority, particularly in our younger generation, was lower on my radar as I set out to engage with young people and help provide them with technical training to have them “job ready” as they enter the workforce.
So, what are soft skills? These are considered the basic skills that allow a person to be successful in their job, regardless if it’s construction or any other industry. Communication skills, conflict resolution, the ability to work with a team, active listening, persistence, and negotiation and diplomacy are just a few. When considering a new hire, the list can be expanded to include the ability to wake up and show up on time for work, not staring at your phone throughout the day, and taking direction. Our industry is a technical one, requiring knowledge and skill in order to run our jobs efficiently and safely. Many of MITA’s member companies have training programs to help reinforce and hone these technical traits. If you are one of these companies, you should give yourself a congratulatory attaboy. If you are lacking in offering soft skills training along with your technical training, you have some room for improvement.
Consider training new hires, as well as seasoned veterans of your company, basic skills that will allow them to be more successful, and ultimately, more happy working for your company. Teaching communication skills teaches your employees how to communicate with each other, their superior(s), as well as voicing their concerns and questions. This article will use a couple of the soft skills and reinforce how providing specific training can help the employee and the employer.
Spelling out and putting a section in the company handbook on how to handle conflict resolution as well as negotiating techniques can provide an employee with a comfort level when they are faced with adverse situations. What is acceptable and what is not can help an employee walk through the minefields that we are often faced with on a day to day basis. As we all know, our industry is strife with modifications, changes, egos, and conflict. Giving tools that can be used to work through these common yet stressful situations will empower them to find positive results from difficult situations.
Team dynamics can play a huge part in employee satisfaction. It’s not about everyone getting along, but about trusting that each person on the team has the same goal; completing the project and doing so safely. Team building exercises can help workers feel more comfortable with each other.
It’s important that you keep in mind the importance of soft skills training. Often times we let our employees learn these skills by example. If they are fortunate enough to catch on, they remain with the company and prosper. If they don’t catch on, they are either shown the door or they leave on their own. My question is, with the workforce shortage that we are experiencing, how many potentially good employees are we losing by not providing formal soft skills training? It’s much easier to retain an employee than find and hire a new one. Something in that person resonated enough for your company to hire them in the first place. By providing them with tools to increase their likelihood for success will benefit them and ultimately your bottom line.