Formal soft-skill training for issues such as Emotional Intelligence, conflict resolutions, teambuilding and others can present a high-cost solution for organizations, especially in today's economy. However, creative approaches can be implemented without compromising the quality of the training.

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In today's economy, even with a high-value return on investment, the high cost of developing people may exceed organizational budget constraints - especially in the area of soft skill (or people skill) training (i.e., problem solving, decision making, emotional intelligence, etc.). With hard skills which are easily observed, measured and quantified such as computer skills, financial skills, process mapping, project management, etc., computer-based training offers a cost-effective platform. There are virtually no travel or material costs and administrative activities can be handled by a database. On-line curriculums provide offerings, and the learner can use guidelines to outline a development plan.

Although ideal for containing costs, computer-based training is not the best application for soft skill or people skill training because there is no interaction with other people. A more effective approach for soft skill training is to use a group setting where techniques taught can be practiced, and participants receive feedback on their performance, all while interacting with the group. Although the results of formal group training can produce a significant return on investment, its higher costs can present an obstacle when attempting to convince an organization to invest in its people. So we are faced with the challenge of designing soft skill training interventions that respect cost issues while, at the same time, offering the best possible approach for the learner to develop skills.

If we examine where we can get the most for our investment, we find that it is the leaders who have the most influence when it comes to shaping the culture and other people's performance. It would be advantageous to use the more costly, yet proven formal group training with the leaders. And then, with this top-down approach, use the leaders' influence to model the desired behaviors and advocate use of techniques. With strong support from the leaders, we can then identify a method that is less costly to use for others within the organization.

If available, one successful approach is to use a "how to" book with proven results. However, purchasing the book for every person and directing them to read it is not enough. Organizing formal discussion groups with those who have attended the more formal training serving as discussion leaders offers a more powerful approach. Team, departmental or other unit groups could be formed. Discussion guides could be developed to assist the group leaders. The "discussion leader" is not training the individuals. The how to book provides a self-teaching approach. The discussion groups reinforce and encourage the learning. By providing feedback they help to celebrate success and troubleshoot problems. The groups also provide a forum to discuss real-life application of the techniques and the benefits of using those techniques.

This approach is very cost-effective. The investment includes the cost of a book and people's time. Even the time investment can be cost-effective if you plan the meetings around lunch hours or regular staff meetings. The individual group's needs can determine the length of the sessions and the progression through the book. People new to the group can have the same opportunity to develop their skills by setting up a similar schedule or assigning a peer coach or mentor.

Dissemination of knowledge and skills through discussion groups helps minimize the high cost of training. This approach becomes more powerful if leaders receive more formal training and become both role models and discussion group leaders. While the support and advocacy of the leaders is important, a high-level champion can make this approach even more powerful. The added benefit to discussion groups is that it allows leaders and managers to develop their people. And developing people is one of the most important roles of any manager or leader.

Author's Bio: 

As a professional Emotional Intelligence speaker, trainer, consultant, coach and author, Byron Stock delivers high-energy emotional intelligence training programs, that target today's issues. Describing himself as "A Recovering Engineer," Byron focuses on results, helping people enhance their Emotional Intelligence skills. To learn more about Byron's practical, user-friendly techniques, visit byronstock.com to download a free excerpt of his "how to" book, Smart Emotions for Busy Business People.