To train or not to train - that is the soft skills question.

By - Admin
02.06.20 10:12 AM

The world has changed. And no matter how much some may wish it, or others may say it, we are never going back to doing business the way we were doing it in 2019. 

After any major event things change - and they usually change dramatically. But if we really think about it, the 21st century landscape has been 20 years of continual change and adaptation.


The difference this time is that we are experiencing a quickening, a jump and leap forward. We are facing a significant opportunity.


This moment, right now, will determine your long-term success. When faced with a chasm there is a choice; stand on the edge frozen, or jump into the new reality. No matter which choice you make, the world will continue to evolve. Wishful thinking and a longing for the past are not going to be useful tools for this new landscape.


So, what are those useful tools?


Soft skills are, without doubt, the best tools to acquire.


The ability to communicate with other humans is paramount. This may seem paradoxical in our current isolation state, but this is what makes these soft skills vital. Let me explain – with some examples.


In 2019, when our teams were physically close within the working environment, being a manager required a totally whole different mindset, communication style and skill set.


But now, managers have had to move from managing to leading their teams – and many are discovering that leading is a very different set of skills. Then add in the complexity of having to lead remotely - something that most people in a management position have never done before or even contemplated – and the new landscape can feel suddenly very foreign.


Yet, we seem to expect ourselves and our staff to just be able to function to the same high standard as we all did in 2019, when we are working in a totally different environment.


It doesn’t matter how great or how long you managed a team before 2020, that new environment requires new skills and tools - and these skills are all based on interpersonal communications; also known as soft skills.


Here’s another example.


In March 2019, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise (ASBFEO) published a report reviewing payment times. It found that:

·  Cash flow remains a dominant stressor for small business owners, and impacts the revenue of nine out of ten SMEs.

·  According to a Scottish Pacific SME Growth Index report, 79% of small business owners are kept awake at night for this reason

·  Nearly all SMEs (92%) said they would have generated more revenue over the past 12 months if their cash flow situation was improved.

·  Late payment accounted for 43% of cash flow downturn.

·  Small businesses operating in competitive environments who have faced a revenue decline in the past 12 months (37%) greatly feel the effects of late payment on their ability to maintain operations. Just under half of businesses in this category indicated that cash flow had suffered due to late payments.


Let’s just think about that for a moment.


Many businesses were suffering prior to COVID-19. Before 2020, for the most part credit control was done by most companies in a haphazard way. Some companies thought that automating the process and sending out emails to collect invoices was going to work – but people pay people - not emails.  


Now, in this new situation, the ability to collect outstanding invoices has never been more crucial. This will literally be a make or break situation for many businesses.


The credit controller/accounts-receivable person holds the fate of the entire company in their hands. Getting paid will be about making that connection with the late payer and selling the idea that it’s in their interest to pay your company – now; combined with the ability to negotiate payment terms, be assertive with customers and control the sales team so customers that are on stop, stay on stop until their invoices are paid.


At the very core of accounts receivable and credit control are soft skills, the ability to communicate with people in such a way that they pay outstanding invoices. In this new landscape, failure to master this art will be devastating.


If I said the word zoom in 2019 most people would say the word again and associate it with a well-known car company. Now in 2020, everyone instantly thinks online communication tool; a way to reach out to clients, co-workers and even family. In the space of 12 weeks, much of our communication went from in-person to a face on a screen. Some people gave great presentations in person and without help are struggling with this new way of presenting and selling.  


Again, I ask the question - is it reasonable to expect yourself or your staff members to understand how to give excellent presentations without gaining the skills to be able to be persuasive in this new medium? Of course not. Again, it’s the soft skills that are needed to adjust the voice, eye contact and body language to make genuine connections between people.


To sum it up if your managers or you have not transitioned to be a leader with the right communication skills, the accounts receivable team have not updated their assertive communication skills and the sales team fail to win business in this new environment, will the company survive?


Investing in soft skills training might be the difference that saves your company or the company you work for.  To train or not to train has one answer – train soft skills right NOW.