“You have already written a blog on soft skills, so why are you writing on the same topic again”? asked my nephew in a puzzled tone when I keyed in the title of this blog. “Look closely, the title says behavioural skills and not soft skills,”, I clarified. “Soft skills or behavioural skills? Aren’t they one and the same, so why bother to call it by different names?”, he retorted. Soon, I realized that this misperception was shared by many of my friends and colleagues. I don’t claim to be an authority on either of the two subjects but I know for sure that people should know the difference between them. This blog is an attempt to do so and also understand the importance of behavioural skills.
Soft skills as mentioned in my previous blog is the “abilities required in the workplace for professional success” (Georges, 1996). The abilities are essentially skills like good communication, networking abilities, compassion etc. These habits or skills have become a pre requisite in the dynamic environment that we work in today. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I am undermining the importance of behavioural skills. Well, that brings us back to the question of what exactly is behavioural skills? The most popular definition goes like this – Behavioural skills are the skills you use to successfully interact with others in the workplace. They are competencies employees need to be successful in a job and/or in an organization.
A behavioural skills specialist has claimed that employees need to have specific skills that enable them to face the demands of modern working life. It’s these skills which will ultimately turn an average performer into an excellent performer. Liggy Webb, founding director of The Learning Architect, a consortium for behavioural skills specialists, has identified 20 key skills that workers must have to be effective. It forms part of a wider portfolio designed to support the 21st century workforce. Based on research using the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) model and her work with The Learning Architect, the skills list outlines work that employers need to address in order to create a happy and successful firm. This includes:
- Change ability
- Conflict resolution
- Decision making
- Goal setting
- Healthy living
- Life balance
- Impact and influencing
- Positive thinking
- Problem solving
- Relationship building
- Stress management
- Time management
- Value and purpose
Just like soft skills, behaviour skills can be taught through a structured training programme. Dr. Miltenberger defines Behaviour Skills Training as “a procedure consisting of instruction, modelling, behavioural rehearsal, and feedback that is used to teach new behaviours or skills”. It’s a simple teaching program that can be modified as per the individual’s requirement or circumstances. According to the aforementioned definition, the 4 step module include:
Instruction – To imbibe a particular skill, it’s necessary to understand the meaning. Explain the skill in such a way that the trainee understands it’s significance and validation. It’s important that the trainer elucidate the circumstances under which he/she can use this skill and also clarify when not to use it.
Modelling – Practical knowledge at times is more comprehensible than theory. This step will involve the trainer enacting or performing the skill.
Rehearsal – Practice makes a man perfect. This old adage holds good in acquiring a behavioural skill. By practising a particular skill, the trainer will be able to identify correct/incorrect response.
Feedback – It’s necessary that that the trainer gives remedial feedback for incorrect response and likewise should not hesitate in showering praises for correct response.
Real situations in professional and personal life can not only sharpen your behavioural skills but will ensure lifelong success. It’s never too late to learn a skill but do not get into the habit of procrastination!