Ellen Warden, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
Atlanta, GA

Aside from their technical skills, how do you decide which dentist to go to… the one who is pleasant and takes time to answer your questions? Or the one who treats you like a number in a long line of mouths at a filling station?

In today’s BV Practice environment where clients and employees are demanding more, instilling the use of soft skills in your team members is something you simply can’t do without. Degrees and credentials are important, but problem solving, communicating, motivating, collaborating and team building – knowing how to get along with people – are skills crucial for organizational and individual success. They help you excel as a leader and are a key part of building a dynamic, winning workforce.

Miscommunication is expensive. Firms striving to maintain their position in today’s market focus on identifying and solving their clients’ problems. This makes the ability to effectively communicate extremely valuable. When professionals don’t consider how their communications will be received, it results in confusion, misunderstandings, delays and a hit to the bottom line. According to the Mitchell Communications Group, miscommunication costs businesses $37 billion (or $26K per employee) every year.

Thriving business is built on collaboration and teamwork. Diversity in experience, demeanor, age, goals and cultures, sometimes all on the same team, requires an ability to juggle a varied set of personalities to achieve firm goals. Unique perspectives and experiences make collaboration profitable. But when team members lack the soft skills necessary to effectively work together it wastes time, strains business relationships, and may lead to failure.

While technical skills may get your foot in the door, people skills push those doors open. Listening, presenting ideas, resolving conflict and fostering an open and honest work environment have a significant impact on the attitude a person brings to interactions with clients, colleagues, supervisors, staff and other stakeholders. Knowing how to build and maintain those relationships fosters trust and great performance.

People skills are more critical than ever as BV practices struggle to find meaningful ways to remain competitive and be productive. The problem is, soft skills are often undervalued, and there is far less training on improving them than hard skills. The reality is that most new employees come “preloaded” with the requisite technical skills that their jobs require. Despite this, many find themselves unable to excel in a competitive marketplace due to their lack of interpersonal, or soft, skills. According to Mark Murphy (author of Hire for Attitude), 46% of new hires fail in the first 18 months, and of those new hires, 89% fail for reasons associated with attitude.

  • Are you good at getting clients but not so good at retaining them?
  • Do you have a lot of staff turnover?
  • Do you have managers but no real leaders?
  • Are you unable to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge, experience and proficiency within your team?

Maybe it’s time to assess the interpersonal skills that are present in your practice. It’s no longer enough to be technically competent. Employees must develop the softer relationship-building skills that help you to communicate and collaborate effectively. Developing these skills within yourself and throughout your organization will encourage great team performance and lead people to contribute strongly to your Firm’s vision and strategy.

In upcoming issues we’ll take a deeper dive into specific areas to examine.

Ellen Warden
Ellen Warden