Employee feedback often centres on technical skills. Do you complete tasks to the required standard? How are your presentation skills on a scale of 1-10? The focus here is on what employees achieve, the end result – not how employees get there.
Soft skills can bridge this gap. They tell us what skills are equipping employees to perform at their best.
In addition, assessing soft skills uncovers the underlying causes behind poor performance – for example, lack of motivation or failures of communication.
In the past, soft skills were often taken for granted, and side-lined from the performance review process. Many employers assume that workers have these skills already – why invest time in developing communication skills when everyone knows how to behave on the job from day 1?
The reality is, this couldn’t be further from the case. Of new hires who fail within 18 months, 89% fail because of a lack of soft skills, such as the ability to get along with others. Competencies like emotional intelligence and teamwork require intentional, long-term development.
By assessing soft skills in performance reviews, you emphasize their value to your company. You prompt self-awareness among employees, which is the first step to improving areas such as communication.
Below, we provide some phrases and examples that will help you give constructive feedback on soft skills.
To excel at our job, we need both technical skills and soft skills. Technical skills are more obvious – if you’re an accountant, you’ll need to be certified. If you’re an electrician, you’ll need to know how to repair a range of machines.
Soft skills are less tangible – but just as important. These are sometimes called people skills. They’re about how you motivate yourself and how you interact with others. A positive attitude results from some excellent soft skills – from time management, to delegating, to work-life balance and teamwork.
Provide feedback on soft skills, whether that’s in performance reviews or one on one meetings. This offers more holistic feedback. When we only assess technical skills, we aren’t observing the underlying factors that drive employee performance.
Feedback on areas such as communication, time-management and leadership provide greater context. Employees can link together soft skills with performance outcomes – for example, “my communication was unclear in that instance, which slowed down team progress a bit”.
It’s important to emphasize that soft skills are not personality traits – they can be learnt and improved!
Openness to criticism
Soft skills are often more difficult to assess than functional job skills. You must find ways to make soft skills measurable_.
For example, you might measure dependability through attendance - does this person miss meetings with co-workers, or regularly turn up late?
Many employees have misconceptions about soft skills. We tend to see skills like a positive attitude or teamwork as fixed traits. In fact, we are can all develop these skills – in ways that may surprise us! Refer to actions, not personality traits.
When we receive negative feedback, our motivation can plummet. Make it clear that the purpose of reviews is developmental. Propose possible solutions in writing, and ask employees to meet in person/ virtually to discuss these.
Soft skills are beneficial for the individual employee, but they also benefit teams. Describe ways in which their positive behaviors impact on their colleagues. Where there is room for improvement, carefully highlight areas that are negatively impacting other employees.
Below, we provide phrases and examples of feedback on four key soft skills: communication, teamwork, problem-solving and time management.
You can use these in one on one meetings between employees and managers, or in annual performance reviews.
Without communication, you’re not a team. Employees should communicate their ideas clearly, to ensure they have input in all projects. They should also listen actively to their co-workers. When employees receive feedback on this, they can create an action plan to improve communication.
During remote work, communication skills are more important than ever, as employees try to bridge the distance.
You actively try to understand the ideas of others and incorporate them where appropriate
You articulate ideas and suggestions clearly
You listen carefully to others and ask questions when needed
Last week there was a miscommunication that created some stress on our team. You quickly clarified this and communicated one on one with those who were concerned. Well done!
I’m curious about the upcoming project. Make sure you keep me up to date daily, so that we can keep on track
It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about this task, but sometimes this means you don’t make space for others. I noted yesterday that you spoke over Dan and Kate. In future, could you try to listen carefully to your co-workers’ comments?
Your comments in meetings are not always 100% clear. Try writing down suggestions before you make them, and invite questions to cover any miscommunications
When working on X project, a colleague asks for your support but said you never replied. Unfortunately, this slowed down the team. Be available for co-workers during working hours, and keep them updated regularly.
The value of teamwork should never be understated. Employees reach solutions quicker when there are more eyes on the ball. Success is usually the result of many individuals' skills and resources pooled together. These comments will help you give feedback for teamwork and collaboration skills.
You listen to the concerns of co-workers and find solutions
You participate actively on the team, and make yourself available to support your peers
You provide the organizational backbone of your team, ensuring that your teammates have manageable targets and delegating tasks
Your positive outlook is infectious and helps motivate team members
A co-worker mentioned that you were dismissive of your teammates’ suggestions. When working on a team, we need to create an inclusive, positive environment. Can we come up with a plan to address this?
You contributed less time to this project than your peers. It’s crucial ensure everyone pulls their weight. Make taking responsibility for your work a priority in the upcoming presentation.
You should find other ways to communicate with your team, as there have been some misunderstandings
You should work on organizational skills when it comes to team projects
You gather and evaluate all the necessary information before making a decision
You maintain focus under pressure and focus on the task at hand
You raise problems as they arise and ask questions when you have concerns/doubts about the process
You take on board the comments of others before coming to your own conclusion
You sometimes forget to consult co-workers on important decisions
Last month, you left X big decision to others on your team. In future, try to contribute to problem-solving, your suggestions are valued
You find it difficult to work under pressure and sometimes make rushed decisions. What techniques can you use to stay calm and review your options more carefully?
You sometimes resist changes to our processes. How can you improve your adaptability?
You always work to the best of your ability
You manage your time effectively
You manage stress in order to stay motivated
You maintain a good work-life balance in order to prevent burnout
You could manage your time better by creating a list of priorities and focusing on the most important tasks
You sometimes experience overwhelm at work. How can you delegate tasks and create better barriers between work and home to prevent this?
You are regularly late for work. This makes it harder for us to serve customers. Can you set a goal to arrive early every day next week?
I’ve noticed you haven’t been as motivated as usual recently. Can we meet to discuss this?
Employee feedback is about more than just what employees achieve. It’s about how they can develop skills to go further in the future. Soft skills are crucial to this – and human resources teams who prioritize soft skills empower their teams.
PeopleGoal develops your teams through goal setting, reviews and more. To find out how we can help your company, book a demo today.
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