Feb 23, 2024 | 5 min read

Job seekers have more options than ever in this competitive job market and as we have learned, their priorities have evolved since before the pandemic. Professional development and lifelong learning have emerged as important benefits that organisations can offer to attract and keep top talent while filling the ever-present skills gap created by The Great ResignationQuiet QuittingThe Great Gloom, and more.

Professional development is important not only for the reskilling and upskilling opportunities that continued learning provides, but for the personal fulfilment and opportunity potential of your people. With more options for job seekers, it is imperative that organisations reflect on if and how they provide professional development opportunities for both soft and hard skill development that will benefit both their people, and their bottom line, through increased engagement, improved people skills, better teamwork, and more.

Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills, include communication and listening skills, empathy, teamwork, and conflict resolution; emotional intelligence, including self and social awareness, adaptability, creativity, problem-solving, and leadership. Hard skills are more specific, teachable abilities that are typically acquired through formal education, training, or on-the-job experience (think computer programs, etc.).

Wiley Workplace Intelligence set out to gain insight into if and how organisations today are investing in their people through professional development and skills training – and what that looks like. Do they go beyond the mandatory training organisations enforce? Are both interpersonal and technical skills equally prioritised? And perhaps most importantly, how does the quality of these opportunities impact performance and retention?

Wiley Workplace Intelligence surveyed 2,070 individuals to find out what kind of professional development is currently offered by their organisation and their levels of satisfaction. We found that 74% of respondents reported that their organisations offer professional development for their employees and the majority of those surveyed say they spend two hours or less on professional development per month.

Our research showed that individual contributors and managers were most likely to say that access to professional development opportunities were in their top three reasons for leaving their prior company. This fact only furthers our hypothesis that professional development opportunities can make or break otherwise great workplaces.

In-Person Soft Skills Training Has Highest Satisfaction Rate

Mandatory training made up the majority of trainings offered, however only by one percent. Soft skills trainings led hard skills trainings which is great for an organisation as a whole. Focusing solely on mandatory trainings or hard skills over soft skills neglects holistic employee development, risking stagnation and limiting innovation.

Effective communication, high emotional intelligence, adaptability, and the ability to participate in cohesive teamwork define the foundation of soft skills which improve workplace cultures and engagement. Our research showed that in-person soft skills development training had the highest satisfaction rate at 76% satisfied which emphasizes the importance of organisations investing in these skills.

Types of Professional Development Offered to Employees
36%
Mandatory training
35%
Soft skills training
27%
Hard skills training

In-Person or Hybrid Facilitation of Soft Skills Training Most Popular

Soft skills training is being delivered in a variety of ways, with hybrid and in-person leading. In this world of burgeoning artificial intelligence and technology-led innovation, it is notable that a human is delivering the majority of soft skills professional development.

How Soft Skills Training is Delivered
30%
Hybrid
28%
In-person 
20%
Virtual with an instructor or trainer facilitating live (synchronous)
20%
Virtual self-directed (asynchronous)

Interestingly, the method of delivery was tied to the rate of satisfaction with the trainings and 51% of respondents said that in-person delivery of soft skills professional development was very or extremely effective – speaking to the importance of investing in this kind of training in your organisation.

Access to Professional Development Positively Impacts Career Growth

Almost half (49%) of respondents shared that their organisation offers opportunities for learning and development outside of mandatory training. We can then infer that a large number of organisations do not offer these opportunities which can spell trouble for organisations.

Of those surveyed, 48% percent shared that the training they received positively impacted their professional growth – another reason to encourage these trainings in your organisation.

Soft Skills Training Makes an Impact on Performance

63% of respondents said soft skills development positively impacted performance.

When 63% of people report that soft skills training positively impacted their performance, it indicates that developing skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving has a significant and beneficial effect on their effectiveness and productivity in the workplace. This suggests that investing in soft skills training can lead to tangible improvements in employee performance and overall organisational success.

Overall, we found that soft skills are the most commonly offered and the most impactful of the professional development opportunities offered to our respondents. That said, there are still many organisations that are not leveraging this powerful tool. The fact that almost half of those surveyed reported that they have not been offered soft skills development highlights an opportunity for organisations. Soft skills are crucial for fostering effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability in the workplace. Neglecting to invest in these areas could hinder employee growth, diminish team dynamics, and potentially limit the organisation’s ability to thrive in an ever-changing business landscape.

Engaging assessment and facilitated learning experiences like Everything DiSC® and The Five Behaviors® are beneficial for soft skills development because they offer structured frameworks and assessments that help individuals and teams understand their behavioural tendencies, communication styles, and interpersonal dynamics.

By providing insights into personality traits, communication preferences, and team dynamics, these tools facilitate self-awareness, empathy, and collaboration, which are essential components of effective soft skills development. By providing these opportunities to your people you will set yourself up for success while building an effective organisational culture that attracts and keeps top talent.