The Importance of soft skills

In the workplace, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Hard skills are the job-specific skills, knowledge, and abilities that one needs to perform a job, such as computer programming or machine operation. Soft skills are more intangible and harder to define or measure than hard skills. So what exactly are soft skills, and why are they so important in the workplace? And what can an organisation do to nurture and develop its workforce’s soft skills?

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are generally the interpersonal or people skills that help employees successfully interact with others in the workplace. Soft skills are less specialised and less rooted in specific vocations, and are more aligned with the general personality of the individual, than hard skills. It is thought that many of the core competencies for soft skills have a foundation in emotional intelligence, which is the learned ability to identify, experience, understand, and express human emotions in healthy and productive ways.

Some of the soft skills that are considered important and valuable in the workplace include:

  • A positive attitude: not only is it pleasant to be around someone who has a positive attitude, research has shown that negative attitudes in the workplace may lead to workplace accidents and stress-related diseases, which in turn can incur huge financial costs
  • Communication skills: this is vital for almost any role, and includes articulating oneself well, being a good listener, and using appropriate body language
  • Teamwork: being a team player means not only being co-operative, but also displaying strong leadership skills when required
  • Adaptability: it is incredibly important to be able to be flexible when problems arise, and to be able to adapt to situations that don’t go as planned
  • Problem-solving: being able to take action and think on your feet when faced with a problem or crisis situation is incredibly important in the workplace
  • Self-motivation: a self-motivated employee demonstrates reliability, dependability, and commitment, and does not require constant oversight or supervision
  • Conflict resolution: an employee who is able to resolve issues with co-workers effectively is someone who is going to be able to maintain positive relationships with peers and management alike

Why do soft skills matter?

Soft skills enable employees to successfully interact and communicate with everyone that they may encounter as part of their role – this includes colleagues, management, supervisees, and customers. And unlike some hard skills, soft skills are transferable skills that can be used regardless of what role a person is in.

How can employers develop the soft skills of their employees?

Emotional intelligence skills form the base of core competencies that all soft skills are built upon, and because emotional intelligence is a learned ability, soft skills can be developed and nurtured.

  • Employers can educate their workforce on the importance of soft skills, by highlighting the transferable nature of such skills, as well as the relational and interpersonal benefits of being able to interact and deal with other people effectively
  • Employers can focus on nurturing positive attitudes among their workforce, as a positive attitude is thought to be one of the most important soft skills. Positive attitudes can be cultivated, once some basic social and emotional competencies, as well as some specific attitude competencies, are learned and developed. The core emotional intelligence competencies include empathy, self-esteem, self-control, self-improvement, self-management, and interpersonal awareness. Once these skills are honed, the specific positive attitude competencies can be learned and nurtured, and these include keeping one’s focus, doing one’s best, responding to guidance, controlling one’s emotions, and being flexible
  • Workshops, talks, or seminars on soft skills and emotional intelligence can be provided to employees to encourage the development of some of the soft skills that have been mentioned above, as well as some of the other core characteristics and behaviours of emotionally intelligent people – these include: not giving in to negative self-talk; having genuine curiosity about other people; being appropriately assertive when handling conflict; and having a robust emotional vocabulary

Guest Author: Jennifer Fennell, Counseling Psychologist

Sources

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-are-soft-skills-2060852

https://www.wikijob.co.uk/content/interview-advice/competencies/soft-skills

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-soft-skills-2063721

http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/soft-skills-and-emotional-intelligence/

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/soft-skills-you-need

http://www.careerizma.com/blog/positive-attitude/

Employee engagement – where do I start!?

The term “employee engagement” appears in leadership and HR literature the world over. It is a topic which comes up in every one of our client conversations, however the term seems to hold a very different meaning from one organisation to the next.

A Google search for employee engagement will yield a myriad of definitions, for example UK voluntary movement Engage for Success, defines employee engagement as “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” While other definitions might vary from this, the overarching theme is an emotional connection between an employee and their employer organisation.

When addressing employee engagement, an organisation should aim to strategically implement sustainable programmes, initiatives and tools which will result in an employee having a sense of purpose and belonging. Something which will challenge the success of even the most holistic engagement strategy, is a lack of definition around company values and purpose. Engagement is intrinsically connected to the values of an organisation, so when considering engagement, the first place an organisation should start is with their own values.: the glue which will keep people invested (long-term) in the overall business mission.

With clear values and purpose, tools such as an employee survey can be leveraged to gain insights into the culture and mindset of a workforce. The eNPS (employee net promoter score) will provide a very basic understanding of engagement; how likely your workforce is to recommend your organisation as a place to work. Detailed survey questions assessing; workplace inclusion, wellbeing, communication, recognition and career development will provide a greater understanding of an organisation’s needs.

For organisations of all sizes and industries effectively administered surveys will help guide better business decisions. Utilising the feedback, an organisation can determine clear engagement objectives and a strategic approach to boost employee satisfaction. While the prospect of an employee engagement strategy might be daunting at first, with the right building blocks in place the planning process becomes easier and more systematic.

At Wrkit we specialise in the creation of better, healthier working environments using our online suite of data driven employee engagement and retention tools – Surveys, Recognition, Wellbeing (POWR), Learning and Lifestyle Savings. Headquartered in Dublin (Ireland), with offices in London and Boston, we serve local and multi-national companies around the globe. Let our experience guide your next steps, get in touch today info@wrkit.com.

 

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit

The Secret to Successful Collaboration

Collaborative workspaces have their merits; they encourage team work, reduce needless e-communication and foster a culture of inclusion. However different people like to work in different ways and a collaborative environment isn’t always the most suitable. Depending on their role, personality, current mood or task, the most suitable environment for an individual will change.

In an open plan office which promotes collaborative working it is important to find ways to allow for quiet time and privacy, facilitating your team to work at their best. Here are our top tips to create quiet:

Encourage the use of signals: Encourage your staff to use headphones, earplugs, desk signs and even body language to clearly signal that they do not want to be disturbed. The system of signalling needs to be respected by the team and managers to work.

Establish protocol: In a truly open plan office where quite zones cannot be separate spaces, rules or protocol such as quite times or no email times can be implemented – limiting distraction from within the team. Any protocol such as this needs to be well communicated with rational.

Designate a quiet zone: If the office layout allows for it, a designated quite room with hot desks can add real value for the whole team. Like a library, a quite zone in a workplace needs to adhere to strict silence, once the rule is abused the value of the room is gone.

Allow for flexible working hours: When suitable allow people to choose hours that provide the best environment for their needs. If the office is quiet in the early morning or late in the evening and this arrangement can work for an employee allow them to choose their own hours.

Make remote working part of the culture: Allowing for flexibility in working environments can boost engagement and productivity. When it is suitable allow for remote work be that at home or the café down the road. A change in surrounds can have a high impact on productivity.

Add outdoor spaces: While they might be weather dependant, outdoor spaces can provide great alternative workspace and solitude for those seeking silence. Claim whatever out door space you have available and make everyone aware that this is an option.

Intelligent furniture: Re-evaluate some of your furniture choices. Where possible replace some standard desks with privacy pods. While these can help provide seclusion for an individual, they don’t go against the concept of an open plan collaborative environment.

For a collaborative environment to be effective, flexibility in the working environment must be an option. Try new things until you find what works for the majority and for the business.

At Wrkit we specialise in the creation of better, healthier working environments using our online suite of data driven employee engagement and retention tools – Surveys, Recognition, Wellbeing (POWR), Learning and Lifestyle Savings. Headquartered in Dublin (Ireland), with offices in London and Boston, we serve local and multi-national companies around the globe.

Let our experience guide your next steps, get in touch today info@wrkit.com.

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit

Alternative Ideas for National Workplace Wellbeing Day

How we work has changed dramatically over the last decade. The average worker now spends over 90,000 hours at work, doing jobs which are more sedentary than ever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. Of these, over 650 million adults were obese. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that globally over 300 million people are affected by depression, predicting that by 2021 occupational stress will be the leading cause of absenteeism and presenteeism at work.

Initiatives like the National Workplace Wellbeing Day, which takes place on Friday 13th of April 2018 are fundamental in raising awareness of these health challenges. Now in its fourth year running the Irish initiative is becoming increasingly well supported, promoting healthy workplaces and employee wellbeing in organisations of all sizes. Whether an organisation has a formal wellbeing strategy in place or not, this day should be a pillar event in the calendar.

Getting involved.

The core event which is driven by the organisers is the Lunchtime Mile – walk, run or cycle. This event has potential to become a regular fixture in every organisation, it is inclusive for people of all abilities and is aimed towards developing sustainable healthy behaviours and contribute to recommended daily exercise. While an organisation might offer other activities on the day, the Lunchtime Mile should be a standard inclusion for every business.

If you are looking for something outside the box here’s a few Wrkit tried and tested ideas.

  1. 11am desk work out: a five-minute fixture which accommodates everyone. Pick five exercises which take minimal space and use only body weight – desk triceps dips; desk push-ups; star jumps; lunges; squats; wall-sits; calf raises; knee lifts; punching etc. At 11am encourage everyone in the organisation to complete each exercise for a minute (allowing people to chose variations to suit their own abilities). It’s important to identify “leaders” to drive participation and give exercise examples.
  2. On the hour exercise challenge: studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time can have a negative impact on over-all health, contributing to obesity and related disease. The Start Active, Stay Active report published by the British Department of Health, Physical Activity, Health Improvement and Protection, suggests breaking up long periods of sitting with short bouts of activity for just one or two minutes. Get the team moving with wall sits, planks, sit-ups or an exercise of their choice for 1 minute every hour.
  3. Health food bake off: when it comes to weight loss, diet accounts for 75% while exercise 25%. Have a healthy bake off on April 13th and use it is an opportunity to educate people about food. Request participants to share details of ingredients, why they are healthy and provide recipes to share with everyone. Consider a prize for the best and healthiest dish to encourage more people to get involved.

There are hundreds of things an organisation can do, you’ll find other suggestions here on the official website where you can also register your organisation to participate.

Get involved and get on twitter using the official hashtag #workwell18. Share your outside the box ideas with us @WrkitTweets

 

Wrkit Launches New Look Learning Centre

March 7th 2018: Wrkit launch new integrated learning centre.

Today, Wrkit has upgraded their clients to a new look learning centre. The update gives a more streamlined user journey and is one of several product design updates planned by Wrkit for the coming months.

While the learning content currently remains the same, the latest design accommodates an easier three click-journey for users. The umbrella module, Learning, features existing modules Easy Upskill and Learn Plus, with the potential to easily integrate future learning tools. Users can continue to utilise hundreds of online courses for less, upskilling in areas such as excel, photography and graphic design, or develop personal interests with courses in nutrition, wellbeing, writing and more.

Wrkit CEO, Katharina Callaghan commented in relation to the new update

“We are delighted to have merged our Learning offers under one roof. The new navigation is more fun and clearer through a simple 1,2,3 step approach.

Over the next few months the Wrkit platform will receive an overall facelift, continuing from our most recent updates to the Lifestyle Saving module. A clear, simple, colourful layout with encouraging messaging will enhance the user experience throughout our platform.”

Other design updates by the company are expected to go live from the end of March 2018.

If you have any questions regarding Wrkit products, please contact info@wrkit.com or +353 1 662 4170

 

8 Step Wellbeing Strategy

According to research conducted by Mercer in 2017, 53% of employees want their company to focus more on their health and wellness. For those companies who are stepping up and implementing wellbeing strategies, they are likely to see several business benefits including improved employee retention. Research conducted in conjunction with Ireland’s 2017 National Workplace Wellbeing Day found that six out of ten employees are more likely to stay long term with an employer that shows concern for their wellbeing.

While every organisation is different there are two fundamental drivers which will make or break the success of a wellbeing strategy. The first is board level backing. Whether your organisation is 20 or 20,000 people a wellbeing strategy will need to be backed by top level directors and integrated within an organisation’s overall business strategy. The second, which is overlooked by many organisations, is having a defined owner responsible for delivering the strategy. Often wellbeing is amalgamated within the traditional HR role but is frequently not defined as an aspect of the job specification or contract. Without ownership or accountability, a wellbeing strategy is destined to fail. That’s not to say their needs to be role created to manage workplace wellbeing as depending on the size of an organisation that may not be necessary. But by simply formalising responsibility within an existing role – ideally with someone who is passionate about wellbeing, this will yield greater success.

Assuming you have board level backing and an eager owner, now how do you create a high impact wellbeing strategy?

  1. Define a Healthy Workplace – for every organisation the definition of what a healthy workplace is will vary. Defining this for your organisation at the start provides a reference point for future programs or ideas – will implementing X help us achieve Y
  2. Ask Your Workforce – Use a survey to gather feedback before acting. Anecdotal feedback is great but to gain a true insight into employee perception and needs leverage a survey
  3. Outline Measurements – A reoccurring theme surrounding wellbeing strategies is how best to measure them. Do you measure impact or engagement? Engagement is a key metric as it highlights several things including awareness of programs. Impact can be more challenging to measure. Monitoring retention figures and absenteeism over a long period of time can provide some insights but in general impact can be hard to quantify
  4. Set Objectives or Goals – Once you have outlined your measurement metric set targets, whether they are usage numbers, survey scores or certification (such as great place to work). Defining a goal will give your wellbeing driver something to work towards
  5. A Multi-Tiered Approach – human health is not merely physical, it is also emotional and mental. To have the most positive impact a workplace wellbeing strategy needs to address all three areas and account for everyone in an organisation. Healthy eating, getting active, manager and peer feedback, social events, learning, and mental health support should all feature as part of a wellbeing strategy
  6. Plan Long-term – even the most comprehensive wellbeing strategies won’t have an impact in the short-term. Invest in long-term programs and allocate sufficient resources to drive them
  7. Tie it All Together – use every event, challenge or tool to link back to other initiatives. For example, a guest speaker could refer attendees to an upcoming company charity drive or the running club etc. Layering strategies will ensure each program or initiative compliments the next
  8. Communicate New & Old – there are lots of tips out there for launching a new wellbeing program or tool but it’s equally important to keep existing initiatives in people’s sights.

The overarching objective for a healthy workplace strategy should be to cultivate an environment which facilitates positive behaviour change. It is important to take into consideration any unique challenges your workforce or environment might present. Is your workforce of a specific age demographic, are they remote or mobile? Plan for these challenges and strive to meet the needs of those most in-need.

Author: Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager – Wrkit

Sources:

https://www.mercer.com/content/dam/mercer/attachments/global/webcasts/global-talent-trends-2017-europe.pdf

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/work/employers-must-actively-promote-staff-wellbeing-1.3028969

https://blog.wrkit.com/2018/01/18/surveys-understand-and-improve/

https://blog.wrkit.com/2017/06/02/8-actions-to-successfully-launch-a-wellness-tool/

 

A Great Lifestyle Savings Inclusion Worth Communicating

For many people their role, salary and company culture are not the only factors to think about when considering a job or career move, the benefits package and additional so called ‘perks’ that come with the job are becoming as important. Candidates more and more are tending to favour the employer that provide great and relevant employee benefits.
The benefits package can therefore set your company apart when it comes to attracting top talent and retaining the best staff. This is supported by recent research commissioned by VideoDoc, the leading online doctor, where it was revealed that 65% of those surveyed said that if offered free online GP cover, it would influence their decision to work with one company over another.
If you want your company to retain and attract that talent, and the aim is to achieve a more engaged, healthier, happier workforce, they need to know about the benefits that are available. Therefore finding the most effective channels within your organisation to communicate this is as important as offering the benefits package in the first place. So how do you achieve this?
Firstly, because people respond differently to various communication styles, it is sensible to gain insight into the people in your own organisation and how they best engage with company information.
Start by creating a written strategy for employee benefits communications including objectives, goals and employee needs by audience group.

Once this is written, you will need to look at established communications channels within your organisation and compare which one meets the different audience groups requirements.

  • Several approaches that reinforce each other is most likely to get results.
  • Create a special section on the company’s internal website for HR related matters, that perhaps provides information about bank holiday days, entitlements and leave request forms all with the aim to drive traffic to the page. Here you can also promote and highlight different benefits the company offers.
  • Include information on the benefit scheme on the internal newsletter or e-zine with a link taking the employee directly to the information or sign-up page.
  • Adding incentives to the communication and call to action can be effective and increase the open rates of company update emails and newsletters.
  • Think about the content that is important or interesting to the workforce and tailor the topics to this. People are busy, but they have time for something interesting or relevant.

Wrkit clients and their employees have access to a number of superb employee benefits and wellbeing resources. We are always available to support your internal messaging and to ensure all our clients have an engaged and motivated workforce. For more information please email us at info@wrkit.com

Wrkit clients have free access to see a GP online with VideoDoc, this can be found within the Wrkit Lifestyle Savings module.

Author: Nicki Labram, Head of Communications, VideoDoc

Surveys: Understand And Improve

Employee feedback is essential for an organisation to understand and improve employee happiness. In an increasingly competitive world, retaining talent is more challenging than ever, hence utilising employee surveys is becoming more important.

Often organisations will implement tools to help them nurture talent, improve engagement or support employee wellbeing without first assessing their needs. When sufficient internal research isn’t conducted to support decisions it can result in a culture of box-ticking and inevitably wasting money.

Wrkit surveys offer employers an opportunity to leverage regular pulse surveys and/or design their own custom surveys. The pulse survey, a fixed regular survey, is trackable over time. Organisations can choose from twenty set questions, including a single eNPS to assess the company mood on an on-going basis. For a deeper dive into cultural specifics the custom survey offers greater flexibility. A large bank of industry validated questions can help shape the survey, or the questions can be written by the survey driver.

While it is important to use feedback to drive business decisions it is not the only reason surveys are valuable. Using surveys to gather employee feedback can have several positive knock-on effects including:

  1. Improved communication: When employees participate in the process of improving their workplace environment it opens the lines of communication. This can make them feel more empowered, regardless of their position with the company.
  2. Creating psychological safety: Encouraging employees to speak up, share their likes and dislikes it contributes to creating a non-threatening work environment.
  3. Cultivate a culture of honesty: Surveys provide anonymity and privacy which allows employees to honestly share their opinions.
  4. Increased loyalty: If an employee feels that they have a voice they are more likely to have an emotional commitment to the organisation.
  5. Increased trust within the organisation: Letting employees know that it is policy to conduct online employee satisfaction surveys can increase trust and confidence with management.
  6. Identifying motivational factors: Survey insights can highlight what motivates your team, providing an opportunity to leverage this and boost motivation.

Contact us today to find our more about the Wrkit Survey module and how it can benefit your organisation.

E: info@wrkit.com

T: 00353 1 6624170

Author – Sara Glynn, Marketing Manager, Wrkit

PRESS RELEASE: Employee Engagement Specialist Wrkit Appoints Katharina Callaghan as Chief Executive Officer

Board appointments include Fergus Redahan as Executive Chairman and Jonathan O’Connell as Senior Independent Non-Executive Director.

Dublin – Monday, 15th Jan 2018: Wrkit, the employee engagement and retention specialist, has announced a number of senior board and management appointments. Katharina Callaghan has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer. A German national, Katharina has previously held leadership positions with Google, Living Social, TUI Travel and Lidl.

The Wrkit board has also been strengthened with the appointments of Fergus Redahan (formerly with Goodbody, Davy and the IDA) as Executive Chairman and Jonathan O’Connell (formerly of POWR, Escher Group, Merrion Pharmaceuticals, Spectel and Trinity Biotech) to the role of Senior Independent Non-Executive Director. The board also includes the company’s three founders Peter Jenkinson, Mark Jenkinson and Tom O’Driscoll in Director roles.

Originally established as the Loyalty Benefit provider Groupschemes in 2000, the company evolved into Wrkit in May 2017 with the merger of Groupschemes and POWR, the online wellbeing portal. Wrkit’s online platform complements employers’ efforts to create  best-in-class work environments by providing online tools that facilitate and engage workforces through surveys, recognition, wellbeing, learning and voluntary benefit schemes.

Wrkit has offices in Dublin, London and Boston and its clients include Bank of Ireland, Benefex, Core Media, Doyle Collection, ESB, Fedex, Peter Mark, SAP and Savills.

Commenting on Wrkit’s objectives for 2018, Katharina said: “Having invested in the expansion of our offering over the last two years, our main focus now is to demonstrate to companies how we can help them to nurture their talent and grow company productivity by leveraging the tools and insights gained from the Wrkit platform. The best results are achieved through a highly collaborative approach between us and the client by enhancing existing workplace culture and engagement efforts.”

For reference:

Conor Dempsey, Dempsey Corporate

Tel: 086-247 9892/ E-mail: conor.dempsey@dempseycorporate.com

PHOTOGRAPHY: Photo of Katharina Callaghan, CEO of Wrkit available through link below:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/t24odzv4yhs37mp/Wrkit%20CEO%20Katharina%20Callaghan.jpg?dl=0

There’s No Better Benefit Than Health

The way in which we receive healthcare hasn’t changed significantly over the past 100 years. With the average waiting time for patients to see a GP on the rise, and with our increasingly “on-demand” society, it is little wonder that patients and employers are turning to online doctor alternatives.

New research commissioned by VideoDoc, revealed that almost 45% of employees said they do not receive any healthcare benefits from their employer. Of those who do, as many as 43% state this is insufficient to cover the cost of their private health insurance.  Furthermore, over half (52%) of people questioned had delayed seeking medical advice as they were worried about taking time off work. The research also found that more than a quarter of people (27%) admitted that the most likely reason for having to take a day off work would be for a GP appointment – with one in five going on to say they had actually used a full day of annual leave in order to see their GP.

Where there was a fear of having to admit the need to see a GP during ‘office hours’, the national poll showed that excuses started to creep into the workplace with ‘lies about train delays’ or ‘having to work from home to look after a sick child’. The NHS themselves say that 60% of everything during an in-surgery visit in general practice can be dealt with over the telephone and this is before you add the benefit of a secure video consultation platform and specially trained doctors.

Online doctor services such as VideoDoc are bringing the doctor’s house call into the 21st century, offering timely, safe and effective online healthcare services. There are huge advantages for people who work within conventional office hours in a location that is often some distance from home. This smart solution means people will no longer have to take time off for GP appointments. They can access the service 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week.

So-called “sick days” are resulting in millions of lost working days each year, costing the UK economy £100billion a year (CIPD) and the Irish economy €1.5billion a year (IBEC). On average, employees are absent for six-and-a-half days every year with the main cause of a sick day being ‘minor’ illness. Providing on-demand access to an online GP for immediate diagnosis, and swift prescribing of necessary medication could play an important and innovative role in bringing these figures down.

For Wrkit clients and their employees this on-demand service is readily available. Within the Wrkit Lifestyle Savings module employees can avail of VideoDoc services for up to six months free of charge.

“This is a great service for us to be providing within the platform and we are delighted to be working with VideoDoc. The service compliments our other wellbeing resources, helping our clients nurture a healthier and more engaged workforce.” – Peter Jenkinson, Business Development Director, Wrkit 

For more information about Wrkit and VideoDoc get in touch at info@wrkit.com

Author: Nicki Labram, Head of Communications, VideoDoc