Training is like selling. Instead of selling a tangible product, we sell ideas that are linked to improving performance at the organizations we represent. Like our sales colleagues, we want to showcase our products in the best possible light. To help us do that, we need to be conscious of the words we use to support these ideas. Two terms that are used over and over, and in my mind, minimize the value and intent of our training are “soft skills” and “smiley sheet.”
When I researched the term “soft skills” I discovered it no longer means what it once did. Years ago it was assumed that “soft skills” referred to skills that were more or less intangible – person-to person. However, the current definition in Wikipedia states: “Soft skills” is a sociological term for a person’s EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), which refers to the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that mark us. Soft skills complement hard skills (part of a person’s IQ), which are the technical requirements of a job.
Is this what most trainers think of when they hear this term? Should trainers continue to use a term that does not adequately describe the training taking place? Perhaps calling them “interpersonal skills” is more accurate. Wikipedia provides the following definition: “Interpersonal skills” refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interactions in order to reach certain effects or results. The term “interpersonal skills” is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person’s ability to operate within business organizations through social communication and interactions. Interpersonal skills are how people relate to one another.
Another term that may minimize the validity of our training is “smiley sheet.” The term suggests a light, happy, or fluffy evaluation of a course. When we use the term “smiley sheet” do we unconsciously devalue the importance and effectiveness of a “Level One Eval?” The information gained in these evaluations shows us the areas for improvement that will make the courses more meaningful for our clients and ultimately increase their satisfaction. Perhaps we should be using the more accurate and descriptive term like “Level One Evaluation” or “Course Evaluation” rather than “Smiley Sheet.”
As trainers, we sell ideas to our learners in the classroom as well to those in management who fund our training initiatives. Shouldn’t we be aware of what these terms are saying about the quality and effectiveness of training? Can you think of any other words that minimize our effectiveness and the validity of our training? Let me know.