Skip to content

Ignoring Soft Skills Training Could Be Costing Your Business Millions

5 min read

As human beings we are different. We are nuanced. We have empathy. We have sympathy. We are creative. We have thought. We innovate. So, this time that we have given over to automated processes will allow us more time to do that. We have to continue STEM education in our schools but we also have to continue…so-called ‘soft skills.’ These are some of the hardest skills in the world to learn and they’re definitely hard to master. It’s like chess: you never stop learning these ‘soft skills.’

Gordon Fuller, VP and Chief Learning Officer, IBM

Gordon said this during his presentation, Using Agile Design Thinking and Offering Management Disciplines to Create Compelling Personalized Learning Experiences, at HCI’s Learning and Leadership Development Conference (which Ariel attended, see our recap). It was both tremendously insightful and humbling to see the level of thought, care, and work going into how IBM serves its employees’ development needs. He wrapped up his presentation by discussing why the work they are doing matters: to paraphrase, it gives people the space and time to continually develop and master the soft skills of being human.

Ignoring soft skills training could be costing your business millions

Soft skills have emerged as one of the biggest needs in companies today, and that can translate into big money. Specifically, poor communication accounts for an average loss of $62.4 million per year at companies with 100,000 employees and $420,000 per year at companies with fewer than 100 employees, according to The Cost of Poor Communications, a survey by David Gross, cited by SHRM.

For many years, companies have shied away from investing in soft skills training, but this has impacted closing deals, client relationships, increased turnover, and employee engagement due to poor verbal and written communications.

How soft skills training can help

“Soft skills training boosts productivity and retention by 12 percent

and delivers a 250 percent return on investment.”

Communication skills are a must-have for everyone in today’s complex, global business environment. The world around us continues to evolve at a faster pace than many organizations, and their employees, can adapt to. More employees must communicate to a broader range of employees within organizations and with clients.

The winning organizations all have something in common: a keen focus on talent development. They empower L&D teams to create learning cultures that enable their employees to be resilient, build the skills necessary for growth and achievement, and flourish in an environment of change.

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Trends, the workforce’s #1 priority is developing soft skills. To define them, soft skills are “the personal attributes that enable a person to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Soft skills have a strong correlation with business success.

The cumulative cost of productivity loss resulting from

communication barriers is $26,041 per worker per year.

What is working for Ariel clients?

At Ariel, we help some of the world’s largest and most complex organizations move the needle across a wide number of soft skill development areas.

“One of the best sales training sessions that I ever attended.” A large health insurer in the U.S. turned to Ariel to help seasoned sales reps in the National Accounts Division improve their ability to build trust with clients, resolve objections more quickly, and accelerate decision making. Ariel focused on building commercial storytelling skills through a blended learning journey, including interactive webinars, reading and reflecting assignments, live in-person workshops, and group coaching and reinforcement. They continue to build internally with a story library and ongoing boot camps to revisit and practice the skills.

Developing the next generation. A top 10 global bank was looking to grow their female leaders’ influence in the organization’s back office Services and Technology Group. They partnered with Ariel to design a six-month learning journey designed for a select group of rising leaders and high-potential employees and their managers. Elements included live workshops, virtual training, webinars, and a social platform to keep them connected and learning continuously.

A standing ovation and “the highlight of our development week.” A big three automotive manufacturer in the U.S. teamed up with Ariel to dramatically re-envision the culture of leadership throughout the organization. Leveraging Ariel’s design and expertise, they have deployed custom sessions for senior leadership—with fantastic feedback from participants. Ariel is now collaborating to create a more exhaustive strategy, including bite-sized content, coaching, large group workshops, small group experiences, and more, to push the culture along this path with the right guardrails to ensure success.

Everyone needs to be influential

Frequently, employee development is reserved only for those at the top (or rising to it), which creates a gulf in the available skills and leadership bench. Every individual, at all levels and in all roles, can benefit from more strategic communication skills—and your organization will benefit, too.

Ariel has boiled influence down into three core competency areas centered on presence and agility:


Developing skills in these areas results in incredible benefits for your company, including

  • greater employee alignment to organizational values
  • increased employee engagement and retention rates
  • superior resilience to change and additional capacity for change
  • open lines of communication, leading to an open and honest culture
  • sustained, collaborative relationships and partnerships at all levels in the organization
  • decision-making efficiency
  • improved accountability for performance.

How do we build these skills and make them scalable?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Developing the appropriate solutions requires a keen understanding of organizational context, specific areas of need, learner background, culture, and industry. In our experience, many organizations are struggling with how to provide enough “space” for people to learn and then practice these skills, and this is where we can help.

When Gordon was asked “Is there a future for a classroom learning?” he emphatically responded: “Totally, totally, totally, totally…at times we do need human interaction and there are times when a classroom has to be a thing.”

While traditional classroom training is expensive (yet highly effective), blending other formats can increase the reach of dollars and time invested. Digital solutions and larger culture-building initiatives offer longer learning arcs and containers for practice. We’re dedicated to working with you to develop a learning journey that’s right for your team.

Who is Ariel and how can we help you?

Ariel is a communication and leadership development training company. We help organizations solve their greatest challenges by improving leadership, presence, communication, and sales effectiveness.

We are committed to making an impact in your organization and use proven learning principles centered on adult learning:

  • practicing experiential techniques to support rapid learning and activation
  • pushing participants to leave their comfort zones and realize positive results
  • helping leaders develop a coaching mindset for themselves and others
  • providing individual feedback and self-reflection, ensuring consistency and personalization
  • emphasizing dynamic, real-life practice through strategic exercises.

We believe authentic leadership presence + communication agility = true influence inside and outside the organization. Through more than 35 years of experience, we have learned that people can build and practice the behaviors and skills necessary to be agile and authentic.


Next steps

We would love to explore how you can bring our work to life within your organization. Let’s talk! Contact us.


Additional resources:

Leadership and presence

Strategic writing

Sales effectiveness


Virtual Presence Guide: How to Help Virtual Teams Create Authentic Connections

Download this guide to discover tips and best practices to help your teams be productive and engaged when working virtually.

View Resource