Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Training and Development: Four Soft Skills Your Project Teams Need to Master

Training and Development: Four Soft Skills Your Project Teams Need to Master

Hiring professionals who are proficient in soft skills is no longer optional—it's a necessity. With the emergence of work arrangements that allow for more distance working (ex. remote work and flexible scheduling), soft skills are more critical now than they ever were.

Additionally, the world of project management requires the mastering of skills like collaboration, listening, problem-solving, and the ability to communicate well in speech and writing. As a project manager, you likely understand how crucial it is for your team members to have these qualities.

Research from LinkedIn found that while technical and hard skills were at the top of the list for most hiring managers that they surveyed, soft skills were the primary driver of success. Ninety-two percent of their respondents felt that soft skills were more important than technical skills. Additionally, 89 percent of professionals who were categorized as bad hires lacked soft skills.

So, you and anyone on your hiring teams have the monumental task of hiring people for technical proficiencies and ensuring they have the soft skills to accomplish the tasks you need. What are those skills? What should a project team member be proficient in to help your team succeed?

These are the soft skills each member of your project teams needs to master either before you hire them or soon after their onboarding:

Business and Team Communications

Let's get right down to it; this is the must-have for all your teams. The hard part of communication is determining whether candidates are good at it or not. According to a LinkedIn study, communication was at the top of the list when it came to skills hiring managers were looking for, and with good reason. Project management is all about communication: spoken and written. Your team members have to know how to get ideas across clearly, succinctly, and appropriately.

Failing to do so will derail your team's chances to meet deadlines and present a well-crafted product. The best way that you can help team members develop this skill is through practice and instruction. For example, you should provide examples of what a good project update or client communication message looks like on a project management tool or through email. You may even want to have templates for your team members to follow to help them practice. Additionally, don't hesitate to have them take a workplace communication course or two. Udemy and have tons of lessons on the topic that you can share with your teams to get them up-to-speed.

Staying Organized

To say that there are many moving parts in project management is an understatement. Exceptional project management requires an advanced ability to organize everything. One of the critical items that most employees will need help with is organizing things like digital documents, passwords, and project updates. A great way to start training your employees on this is by giving them access to the right tools and setting up policies to go along with them.

For example, this step is where you want to invest in project and task management tools like Asana, Trello, or, which allows your team to track and stay up-to-date on task updates and provide project updates of their own. Additionally, invest in document organizer tools and a password management app. Lastly, develop policies around these tools that will allow your teams to practice their organizational skills.

Project Collaboration

Project management is not a solo sport. Each team member has to know how to collaborate and successfully work with other team members. Resultantly, you want to offer as much guidance as you can to help individuals realize that their actions impact the team as a whole.

There are two ways that you can help your team members hone this skill. First, they should be aware of the personalities and work habits of those they work with. So, you may want to encourage your employees to take personality tests to understand how they and others work.

The more your employees understand the personalities of each other, the better they can collaborate with others. Second, invest in a collaboration course with Coursera or LinkedIn Learning. Both offer detailed and pointed courses on everything from effective team communication to using tools like Google Suite (now Workspace) or Github to promote team collaboration. Also, be sure to provide tools that can facilitate real-time collaboration like Google Suites, Slack, Zoom, and GoToMeeting to allow them to have the best opportunity to engage in collaborative teamwork.

Time Management and Adaptability

The involvement of deadlines makes time management and the ability to be flexible essential for your project teams. Time management is a broad concept, so it helps to break this down into smaller lessons for your team members to understand and grasp. Time management training should include the mastering of goal setting, task prioritization, tracking tasks, scheduling tasks, and the minimization of distractions.

Additionally, team members should also understand how crucial it is to know when to switch from one task to another if an urgent situation or need arises. Again, this is something that you can likely find a course on. Still, you may have specific time management needs for your organization, so it may be best to create customized training that addresses your organization's workflow that your team members can take during onboarding.

Soft Skills Should Be Renamed Critical Skills

One could make an argument that soft skills are incorrectly named. They may not involve technical skills, but workplace life will be challenging without them, and their name gives off the vibe that they aren't as critical to have as hard skills.

However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Business writing, presentation skills, time management, and teamwork proficiency are just as crucial to have as coding, marketing, or accounting. These skills are the glue that can hold your team together and allow you all to meet your project goals.

You should look for soft skills in all candidates and work to develop them in each person already on your teams. If they can master foundational soft skills, they are likely to be high performers who will propel your project teams forward.


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