If you work in a global corporation, you’ve probably had an experience similar to this: You’re in a breakout room, a conference space set up seminar-style with a podium at one end. Someone in khaki pants, a blue button-up shirt, and a blazer but no tie is finishing up their presentation on some best practices. After confirming there are no more questions and thanking everyone for their attention, he exhales, wipes his brow and says with a smile: “By the way, this was the first presentation I’ve ever done in English!”. The crowd applauds.
Global high potential professionals who don’t speak English as their first language have probably received company-sanctioned training provided by their Training and Development departments. They’ve probably received role or function-specific hard skills training, focusing on technical capabilities. And probably attended some courses to improve their soft skills like giving presentations, professional writing, and time management. These are transferrable skills they can use now and throughout their careers no matter where they end up. And perhaps, they’ve learned English through their company’s language training program as well.
In the area of corporate learning and development, there’s often a distinction between these different categories of training. So much so in fact that there are different career specializations for technical training roles versus other L&D and leadership development. And too often, transferrable soft skills are themselves developed and trained for in separate, sometimes disjointed programs, taught in different modalities, times of the year, or to different cohorts.
In this fast-paced, globalized world, soft skills are becoming increasingly more critical for businesses and a major differentiator for employability and success. And therefore, they are highly important skills for employees. So much that these are often considered the skills of the 21st Century.