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“软”技能很难衡量,而且需求甚大。有办法教授吗?

Anne Fisher 2019年05月27日

强力技能、持久技能、人事技能、人际技能、情商如今都有着庞大的需求。

雇主难以聘请到足够的高情商员工,并耗费了大量的精力,向大量现有员工灌输“强力技能”。图片来源:PeopleImages Getty Images

毋庸置疑的是,所谓的软技能,也就是那些难以衡量的能力,例如同理心、适应能力和善于沟通想法,需要一个新的名称。Skillsoft的产品开发业务副总裁海德·阿贝利称,“‘软’听起来没有气势,或者听起来不如‘硬技能’或专业技术重要。这个观念是绝对错误的。”该公司致力于设计和交付培训课程,服务对象涉及全球160个国家的1.4亿名雇员。“我们将其称为‘强力技能’,因为没有它们的支持,人们的专业技术难以得到充分的发挥。”

培训公司D2L的联合创始人及首席测略官杰瑞米·奥格表示:“我将其称为持久技能。”该公司的客户包括沃尔玛、宝洁、Fidelity和美国运通。他指出,专业技术的平均生命周期如今约为18个月。作为对比,像创造力、适应力和时间管理这类持久技能永不会过时。“这些技能在公司的任何部门都能发挥作用,离开了公司也是一样。”

强力技能、持久技能、人事技能、人际技能、情商,无论叫哪一种名字,它们如今都有着庞大的需求。然而,雇主目前难以聘请到足够的高情商员工(包括新毕业的大学生),而且耗费了不俗的精力,向大量公司现有员工灌输这种“强力技能”。那么问题来了:这些技能能够传授吗?

这一点很重要。在公司开展数字化、自动化,并不断调整的过程中,打造一个可供员工沟通其理念的企业文化对于公司竞争力至关重要。培养合作和创意思维亦具有同样的重要性。

与此同时,对于雇员来说,随着越来越多的任务被算法取代,持久技能如今已经成为了一种职业保险。研究显示,同时拥有技术专长和强大人事技能的员工不仅可以随意选择工作,而且其收入也要高得多。

至于人事技能的培训是否有助于人们改变其个性因素,这一点我们很难说,例如拒绝接受新事物,或对于社交技能一窍不通。目前,还没有一个标准可以用于评估培训前后的技能水平。

反而,业界对于进步的衡量十分主观。例如,高管们在完成Skillsoft有关及时提供有效反馈的课程之后,我们向其直接下属询问:老板是否有所改进或改进了多少。当然,这种做法存在明显的缺陷。如果一位员工对老板有异议,另一位是老板的高尔夫球球友,他们很容易给出迥异的评分。

即便如此,这些评估超出了大多数普通雇员的水平。海德·阿贝利指出,培训公司和其客户“有必要开展更多的同行评议,而且我们需要搜集和分析数据。”

各大公司对于如何衡量有潜力雇员的人事技能更加不知所措。奥格说:“雇主大多依靠的是面试中所获得的求职者信息,然而,数十年的研究表明,人们在面试中的表现和其之后的实际表现基本上没有多大的关联。”

即便人们的本性并不会出现多大的变化,但这并不是说其行为亦无法改变,只不过当前没有可靠的量化指标。要想让“强力技能”培训发挥最大的影响力,它应该涵盖学习、反思和实践这三大要素,阿贝利说道。线上Skillsoft课件的内容包括向人们展示如何在真实商业环境中互动的视频,它是其他两大要素的出发点,也是阿贝利认为最有可能产生成效的环节。

她说:“例如,在孩童时代,你不会愿意与他人分享玩具,如今也是一样。可能这就是你的基本性格,而这也是反思如此重要的原因。对其进行反思,询问自己为什么自己如今仍会让在此类事情妨碍自己的工作。然后,提醒自己要提升合作意识,并进行实践、实践,再实践。”

她说,这听起来并不是件容易的事情,的确如此。“然而,学习任何新事物都必须有所付出。”

奥格把改善并非与生俱来的人事技能比作学下象棋。他说:“你可以阅读规则手册,记住不同的策略等等。但了解游戏规则的唯一方式就是不断地去玩游戏,最好是与水平更高的对手进行厮杀。”正是出于这个原因,D2L开展持久技能培训的方式侧重于经理和同僚的教授与辅导,因为他们能够随时指出进步(或不足)。

请注意:为了让所有的实践都能有所回报,雇员需要培养一种奥格所称的“心理安全”。改变是困难的,而且人们倾向于在新习惯养成之前遵从老习惯(尤其在遇到压力的时候)。他说,为了给处于实践期的雇员创造一定的容错空间,“请务必将有关学习和开发举措的反馈与绩效评估彻底区分开来。”如果错误会导致雇员失去升职或提拔机会,那些正在尝试新行为(尤其是那些并非与生俱来的行为)的人就不会愿意对其进行实践。

然而,如果一个个性特别突出的人拒绝做出任何改变怎么办?例如,接受同理心培训的经理似乎并未有任何长进。阿贝利的答案:那就开展更多的培训、反思和实践。

她说:“任何人都能够学会强力技能,这一点与个性无关。当然,没有金刚钻是揽不了瓷器活的,但他们可以获得这方面的能力,因此,他们至少不会对机构造成破坏。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

No doubt about it, so-called soft skills—those hard-to-measure talents like empathy, adaptability, and a knack for communicating your ideas—need a new name. “‘Soft’ sounds weak, or somehow less important than ‘hard’ or technical skills. That’s completely wrong,” says Heide Abelli, senior vice president for product development at Skillsoft. The company designs and delivers training courses to about 140 million employees in 160 countries around the world. “We refer to them as ‘power skills,’ because, without them, people’s technical skills aren’t running on all cylinders.”

“I call them durable skills,” says Jeremy Auger, a co-founder and chief strategy officer of training company D2L, which numbers Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Fidelity and American Express among its clients. He points out that the average lifespan of a tech skill now is roughly 18 months. Durable skills like creativity, adaptability, and time management, by contrast, never get obsolete. “You can take them with you anywhere in the company, or outside it.”

Power skills, durable skills, human skills, people skills, durable skills, E.Q.: Whatever you want to call them, they’re in big demand now. But, as employers scramble to hire enough high-E.Q. people (including new college grads), and launch massive efforts to instill “power skills” in vast numbers of the employees they’ve already got, one question leaps to mind: Can these skills be taught?

It matters. As companies grapple with digitization, automation, and constant change, creating a culture where people can communicate their ideas is crucial to competitiveness. So are collaboration and creative thinking.

Meanwhile, for employees, as more and more tasks are taken over by algorithms, durable skills are becoming a kind of career insurance. Studies show that people with both technical expertise and strong human skills not only have their pick of jobs these days, but they earn far higher salaries too.

But it’s hard to tell if human skills training helps people change aspects of their personality—being resistant to new experiences, or having tone-deaf social skills, for instance. At the moment, no one has yet come up with a standard way to assess those skills before and after training.

Instead, progress is measured subjectively. After executives complete Skillsoft courses in, for example, giving timely and effective feedback, their direct reports are asked whether, and by how much, the boss has improved. That has obvious disadvantages, of course. A staffer with an axe to grind, or another who’s the manager’s golf buddy, could easily distort the score.

Even so, those evaluations are more than what most rank and file employees get. Training firms and their clients “need to start doing more peer assessments,” says Heide Abelli. “We need to collect and analyze the data.”

And when it comes to gauging the human skills of prospective employees, companies are even deeper in the dark. “Employers rely heavily on what they can glean from candidates in job interviews,” notes Auger, “even though decades of research show that there is little, if any, correlation between how people come across in interviews and their performance later.”

That’s not to say that people can’t change their behavior—even if their fundamental nature doesn’t shift much, and even though reliable quantitative measures don’t (yet) exist. “Power skills” training makes the biggest impact, Abelli says, when it includes three elements: learning, introspection, and practice. The content of Skillsoft’s coursework, delivered online and including videos that show people interacting in real-life business situations, is the jumping-off point for the other two, which is where Abelli believes true change can happen.

“Let’s say that you didn’t like sharing your toys when you were a kid, and you still don’t,” she says. “Maybe that is just part of your basic personality. But this is where introspection is crucial. Reflect on it, and ask yourself why you’re now allowing it to get in your way at work. Then, make a conscious effort to get better at collaborating, and practice, practice, practice.”

If that sounds like hard work, she adds, it is. “But then, learning anything new takes work.”

Auger likens improving a human skill that doesn’t come naturally to learning to play chess. “You can read books about the rules, memorize different strategies, and so on,” he says. “But the only way you really learn the game is by playing over and over again, preferably against someone who’s better at it than you are.” For that reason, D2L’s approach to durable skills training puts a big emphasis on coaching and mentoring from managers and peers, who can point out progress (or the lack of it) in real time.

One caveat: For all that practicing to pay off, employees need a sense of what Auger calls “psychological safety.” Change is hard, and people tend to backslide into their old ways (especially under stress) until new habits take hold. To allow people some leeway for mistakes while they’re still in the practicing stage, he says, “make sure that feedback about learning and development efforts is entirely separate from performance appraisals.” Someone who’s trying out a new behavior—especially if it’s one that doesn’t come naturally—won’t want to practice it, if a misstep could cost him or her a raise or promotion.

But what if a personality quirk turns out to be impervious to change? A manager, for instance, who has been trained in empathy, doesn’t seem to have acquired any. Abelli’s answer: More training, introspection, and practice.

“Anyone can learn power skills, regardless of their personality,” she says. “True, someone may never be a rockstar at a particular skill, but they can get competent at it, so at least they’re not doing damage to the organization.”

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