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Business Practices

The Importance of Soft Skills in the Work Environment

Soft skills are not a personality trait – unchangeable and inherent to each person. In our society, we tend to assume that people who are likeable, who are good teammates, and who work well with others are inherently sociable. That they were born this way and have always been excellent interpersonal diplomats.

A coworker who makes friends easily or can deliver bad news without hurting feelings is considered naturally charismatic. Another coworker who is awkward in groups or often puts their foot in their mouth is considered naturally unsociable. While it’s true that our personality and nature contribute to our social abilities, what we know as ‘soft skills’ are really learned. And the social ‘naturals’ likely learned most of their skills in childhood.

Socialization and Early Childhood

When we are young children, we’re all unsociable little monsters. Before we even have clear memories, our parents, teachers, and older siblings teach us how to share. And, let’s face it, some children are taught better than others. A child with loving parents who teach them their “Please’es and Thank-you”s, who advise against insulting others, and who teach that a shared treat is more rewarding than a hoarded one are also more likely to have excellent soft skills as adults. While a spoiled only-child who is told they don’t have to share is more likely to be a selfish and uncooperative adult.

However, by as early as 2nd or 3rd grade, we start getting the message that our social success is inherent. Eight-year-olds who don’t make friends easily may be labelled as ‘anti-social’ while those whose parents take the effort to socialize them very young are labelled as ‘charismatic’ and generally more likeable as people. We take on these labels and by the time we’re adults, it’s assumed that our social skills are static. You may be able to learn one or two new techniques like how to debate, structure a negotiation or deliver a speech, but how we deal interpersonally with others is assumed to be a permanent personality trait.

Soft Skills Are Not Set In Stone

But this simply isn’t true. Soft skills are not set in stone because they can always be learned. Consider a professional in an international company who transfers to an office in a new country. It may take her a few months, but eventually, she learns the new social customs. How to be polite in the new culture, how to collaborate with their new coworkers, and how to be diplomatic with coworkers and superiors. How are these not learned soft skills?

Other examples are less broadcasted and less socially acceptable to talk about, but people are teaching themselves new soft skills all the time. The funny thing is that it usually requires a life change to pretend you always had the soft skills you’re trying to learn. A young adult with few friends in school moves to a new town and starts practising charisma with a new group of people who don’t have a concept of them as inherently introverted or awkward. The soft-skill mistakes we make in a previous romantic relationship like lack of empathy are learned and we show more empathy in the next relationship.

Businesses shouldn’t assume that employees will take on improving their soft skills on their own, or even if they do, that the process will be done in the most efficient or effective way possible. That’s why businesses need to take soft skills seriously and begin training them in a structured and intentional way.

The Risks of Employees Self-Learning Business Soft Skills

We are constantly teaching ourselves new soft skills, but we must do so with the skills and experiences we already have. This means that the way your employees teach themselves to improve will vary from person to person. Let’s say negotiation is an important part of a position. Not all of your employees will naturally know how to negotiate well, but they know they need to learn. One took debate class in High School and has an idea of how to structure a negotiation, respect the points of the opposition, and build to a constructive conclusion. Another learned when they were young that arguing hard usually got them what they wanted.

The first will build on those initial skills to become a considerate and effective debate artist. The second will struggle to teach themselves the basics and will probably remain too aggressive until someone who knows the way takes the time to show them. Along the same lines, an employer may tell their team to learn how to use ‘constructive criticism’, but this phrase also tends to bring a sense of dread to experienced professionals. Why? Because not everyone understands what makes criticism ‘constructive’ and how to avoid being hurtful. Those who fail do so because no one ever taught them as children and they didn’t pick it up naturally up along the way – not because they’re trying to be mean.

This is what in-line professional training is for. But not enough employers realize and accept just how much improvement they could see by training soft skills. If you really want your employees to be experts at negotiation, communication, collaboration, and constructive criticism, you must teach them how it’s done.

Teaching Soft Skills as Professional Development

Not only is it better for your employees to know the proper way to implement the soft skills needed in business. But what if all your employees knew how to negotiate in the exact same way? What if there was a structured way to offer constructive criticism that every employee knew how to offer and accept smoothly? When you hire for soft skills or expect them to develop naturally, you will get a large mix of abilities, techniques, approaches, and responses. However, when you train soft skills, even to those who already have a working set will learn how to do it in a unified, organized way that will interface perfectly with those who are learning these skills for the first time.

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Business Practices MSP Technology

The MSP as a Strategic Technology Partner for SME’s

While advancing online technologies continue to streamline business processes and expand operational capabilities, they’re also urging SME’s to adapt to the newest solution. Knowing when and what to change can be a challenge, which is one reason why SME’s need their MSP’s to also be their strategic technology partner.

Integrating Cloud-Based Applications

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) come in many sizes and types, yet all have IT infrastructure running their business. Before cloud and mobile computing solutions became widely available, on-premise enterprise systems and applications were the norms.

The new norm for SMEs is a hybrid enterprise system, which uses some proprietary hardware and software solutions mixed with cloud-based software solutions. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have further added to the number of applications and systems that need to be managed in one workplace.

The rise of cloud-based services for businesses has been a game-changer for many industries, including in the MSP realm. Since the 1990s, MSP’s have focused on remote monitoring and managing on-premises IT infrastructures; emerging cloud-based services and value-added resellers (VAR’s) are now sparking competition and asking MSP’s to expand their services.

As a TechTarget article: managed service provider (MSP), explains:

“Another challenge MSPs face is the mainstream adoption of cloud computing. As more of their customers’ IT infrastructure components migrate to the cloud, MSPs have to find ways to manage hybrid cloud environments. MSPs also seek to provide their own cloud computing services or resell other cloud providers’ capabilities, with cloud-based backup and disaster recovery (DR) a common entry point.”

An article on MSP Insights called, Five Trends To Impact Managed Service Providers in 2018, written in 2017, elaborates with numbers:

“…Growth in cloud computing: A recent report by IDC indicates that ‘Worldwide spending on public cloud services and infrastructure is forecast to reach $266B in 2021. The cloud computing market is expected to achieve a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.0% and the public cloud services spending will reach $128B in 2017,  an increase of 25.4% over 2016.'”

Integrating cloud-based applications into enterprise systems is something SME’s are doing to streamline their operations and boost their bottom line, yet do they have the expertise and support to manage these applications with effectiveness and efficiency?

For most SMEs, the answer is often no, which is why MSP’s are adapting their services to become strategic technology partners (STPs) and CIOs for their SME clients.

Transitioning Enterprise Systems

As enterprise systems transition from solely on-premises to cloud-based hybrid systems, their IT infrastructure inevitably becomes more complex. With multiple vendors to coordinate with, IT departments can quickly become disorganized and stretched thin.

With limited IT resources, SMEs can augment their staff by using an MSP as their STP. The MSP’s expertise and experience with technology will help guide and direct businesses in the right direction. The MSP can be hired as the business’s CIO, which provides effective leadership when transitioning enterprise systems.

Unbiased Assessment of Vendors

While cloud-based software vendors offer their own support, they don’t have an encompassing and unbiased view of the business’s entire IT infrastructure. This means IT teams for SME’s are responsible for achieving streamlined interoperability and overall compatibility with disparate applications and systems.

Internal IT departments are also tasked with selecting and implementing new solutions into existing enterprise systems. For SME’s with limited IT departments, these tasks can easily become overwhelming, which can lead to continuity issues from undiscovered incompatibility.

What’s needed is an unbiased view from an IT expert that has the best interests of the SME in mind. Acting as a strategic IT partner, the outsourced MSP can help SMEs understand what each vendor’s service does and how it will fit within their overall IT infrastructure.

Consolidating support with unbiased expertise gives SMEs the knowledge to choose the applications and solutions that fit their needs. The vertical support offered by vendors can be used effectively when combined with the unbiased view of their STP, as this brings SME’s the clarity and understanding to move forward with confidence.

Expanded Expertise with Strategic IT Planning

SMEs are generally focused on managing sales, marketing, inventory, and customer service, which often means strategic IT planning isn’t developed to their advantage. Basically, non-tech businesses usually lack the expertise and experience to develop effective strategies with IT planning.

This is understandable considering how complex IT can be and how rapidly online technologies are developing. The temptation of not planning and sticking with outdated IT infrastructures is strong, yet this strategy can lead to security risks, falling behind competitors, and losing out on golden opportunities.

Basically, strategic IT planning is a necessary component for business growth and continuity. The more effective the IT strategy, the more streamlined and efficient enterprise systems will become. The only thing needed is a strategic technology partner to formulate, guide, and direct the plans to fruition.

Conclusion

MSPs have provided vital services to millions of businesses ever since IT infrastructures became ubiquitous within modern businesses. And according to a TechTarget infographic, 39% of SMBs are still “using managed services in some capacity”, which shows us how relevant their services still are.

The relevance of MSPs is changing as cloud-based SaaS, PaaS, WaaS applications become more prevalent within hybrid enterprise systems. Serving their clients now means offering cloud services and outsourced roles as a CIO and/or STP. These expanded roles are filling a vital need for SMEs with limited IT departments and expertise.

MSPs are in the perfect position to offer SMEs a holistic solution for their IT needs. While still monitoring, repairing, supporting, and managing on-premises enterprise systems, they can additionally offer their expertise and experience as an outsourced CIO and STP. Their unbiased view of vendors, their understanding of their client’s IT infrastructure, and their expertise and experience with technology in general, gives MSPs the unique ability to develop an effective strategic IT plan for each client.

To see how ServiceTree helps MSP’s address these challenges and capitalize on the vast opportunities, reach out today.