How do we teach soft skills?

Here’s something that’s bothering me: everybody says that we need to help people develop soft skills and traits. These include -

  • Grit
  • Motivation
  • People skills (empathy, emotional intelligence, collaboration, persuasion)
  • Curiosity

We should also imbue people with a “growth mindset” and an “entrepreneurial mindset”.

Now, I definitely agree with that, but how do you help the average forty years old low-income factory worker develop a “growth mindset”? How do you imbue him with grit and motivation?

Would love to know what you think.

In line with that - how do you measure skills like “grit” or “motivation”? How do you prove that you have them? Or how does an employer prove that you don’t?

You can probably tell on a case-by-case basis, and through experience, but I struggle to imagine how you create fair guidelines for this.

Then it also becomes a regulatory issue. In many countries, at least here in Europe, you can’t fire somebody without cause. How does an employer justify firing somebody for not showing enough “grit”?

Here is an interesting article from HBR on Organizational Grit. It’s a quick an interesting ready that goes into a bit of measures for grit in hiring practices (checking resilience + dedication to an organization) and also touches on how employers can develop grit through demanding yet supportive work. Just some food for thought!

@NickOttens -
There’s actually a test that checks for your grit level. How accurate is it? That’s another question altogether.

@CollyPride, @Kstump, you may have thoughts on this question. Please let us know what you think!

All of the named qualities are well known youth development principles that all programs should incorporate as part of their social emotional learning… I think the question in the context of the future of work is about what are the skills that aren’t part of the traditional programs and education curriculum that are critical? How do we evolve a curriculum and our approach to integrate these skills?

I think that’s a good question, @Kstump!

Speaking from my own experience, I realize looking back some of my education, starting in elementary school, was aimed at peaking my curiosity, for example, by letting me choose my own projects, and at teaching me to work with others, for example, by forcing me to work in teams.

But grit? Empathy? Entrepreneurial mindset? I’m not sure I was taught any of those things, at least not deliberately.

Are there examples of educational systems or programs that try to do this?

I believe it is interesting that @Roey thinks that general people in their forties may lack girt, people skills, motivation and/or curiosity. whole indeed the people that are usually in blue collar work, they had not developed an entrepreneurial mindset, I believe that they are overpassed in skills such as grit (as many of them how would they not give up working for low salaries, or hard jobs, I believe they need grit to go through the tope of work many of them have to go through!) I definitely believe that people skills are more difficult for millennials or new recruits, that everything is done digitally online, with out person to person approach, I certainly believe that there is a window of opportunity for older people to teach these soft skills, people skills, to younger ones…

Let me rephrase my question:

I understand that we’re trying to teach things like motivation, curiosity and grit at schools. I don’t think it’s being done very well, but still.

My question is about those adults who don’t have much motivation, curiosity and grit. Obviously, not everyone is like that. Probably not even the majority of adult workers. But we all know those workers who are essentially ‘burned out’. So how do we help them re/discover grit and motivation?

I really like @Roey 's focus on a growth mindset. The ability to give ones self permission to fail and then try again directly impacts their grit, motivation, and curiosity.

I think the best way to teach someone that kind of mindset is simply by example. Good mentors are key. This can be done at any age as well, however it is much easier to for younger minds simply because they haven’t been fully hardwired yet into their particular thought patterns.

@jpainter, @hjohnson, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this discussion. Is it possible to “teach” grit and motivation? If so, how?

It’s interesting there are several start-ups - like RockyX - that are creating AI coaches that may be able to teach workers (especially managers) these kinds of traits / skills. What’s more, they may do this at scale, as their marginal cost of operation is… well, marginal.

It’s jobs not skills.

@sternals - That is a very interesting article indeed! It challenges the perception that only jobs that contain repetitive “low-skilled” tasks are at risk. In some ways, the article highlights the fact that we are susceptible to job changes - no matter what color our collar. In this way, @Roey 's question is still an important one because we all will have to learn to adapt to change. Adapting to change does take a certain amount of skill in that it requires adaptability and a willingness to grow/evolve or simply adjust to new circumstances.

I do think, however, that “grit” is overrated and is less of a skill than a workplace survival mechanism. More important is human adaptability, creativity, and resourcefulness.

I agree with you on all of those issues, but if there’s an insufficient amount of jobs that require those skills we will still have a lot of people hurt in the future