Teaching Soft Skills: Not “Can We?” But “How Do We?”

After speaking at the ASTD conference in DC this week, I was discussing with a few conference attendees whether or not you can successfully teach soft skills on a web conference. We exchanged a few good ideas including a suggestion from a participant to incorporate video.

The discussion made me realize that it’s not a question of “can” but “how” we teach soft skills. With more than 137 workers worldwide involved in some sort of teleworking, a huge number of managers and others have to be able to give performance feedback or inspire others to follow his/her leadership virtually. Teaching these soft skills in a physical classroom is important, however when we teach these skills in a virtual classroom we simulate the real situation that many people face every day. The tools that virtual teams generally have at their disposal are the telephone and email, so they need to be taught how to deliver the appropriate messages verbally over the phone or in written communication.

Pairing up participants to role play, scripting role plays, and asking participants to type a sample sentence for an email in the chat are just a few of the ways that we can simulate the situations for participants and make the virtual classroom reflect the reality of millions of workers.