When the going gets tough, patience and good manners often go out the window. While employers deal with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19), stress levels are rising. In turn, relationships — both internal and external — are at risk. From an HR perspective, one way to mitigate the potential damage is to gently remind employees of the importance of maintaining and even developing “soft skills.” Generally, these skills take the form of five emotional core competencies:

1. Self-awareness. Employees with strengths in this area know their own emotions, what causes them, and how to differentiate between them and what’s really going on. If a colleague or customer does something they find annoying, self-aware people handle it diplomatically without lashing out. Doing so, in turn, promotes successful resolutions to problems and improved interactions.

2. Impulse control. Self-regulating individuals can resist or deny an impulse to act irresponsibly. They avoid mistakes by taking time to think, knowing that rash actions can be costly. In its milder form, lack of self-control may drive a salesperson to offer a customer an untenably low price to make a sale. Or it can drive employees in production or service to cut corners on quality. In its most severe forms, poor impulse control can lead to fraud and even workplace violence.

3. Motivation. Self-starters know what they want to do, what they’re able to do and what they’re not. They then act to achieve their goals. These individuals are often able to motivate and get the best performance from others as well. Every employer tries to hire self-motivated employees but, during times of crisis, many staff members may need words of encouragement and more specific directions to stay focused.

4. Empathy. Those who have this skill can read other people, be aware of their needs and adjust their communication style accordingly. Empathy isn’t so much a method of expressing oneself as a state of mind. Employees — particularly managers — need to understand the duties and demands placed on their colleagues.

5. Social skills. Team members with these skills can adjust their actions quickly in relation to others. They also can persuade others to look at events from a different perspective, get them to compromise and generally induce a desirable response from customers and colleagues. Granted, certain employees may have bad social skills but be good at their jobs. You might need to keep a closer eye on such individuals during tough times.

These five skills may be considered “soft,” but a growing number of employers have been discovering how they translate into hard benefits in higher morale, better productivity, and a stronger bottom line. And, again, as organizations rise to the serious challenge of a pandemic, even little things such as soft skills can make a difference. Contact us for help managing your workforce in a positive and cost-effective manner.

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