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Bridging The Soft Skills Gap

How to Teach the Missing Basics to Todays Young Talent

by Bruce TulganJossey-Bass / 288 pages / September 2015

The number one challenge with today’s young talent is a problem hiding in plain sight:  The ever-widening “Soft Skills Gap.”

Today’s newest new young workforce has so much to offer – new technical skills, new ideas, new perspective, new energy.  Yet too many of them are held back —and driving the grown-ups crazy— because of their weak soft skills.

Here’s what managers say:

  • “They just don’t know how to behave professionally.”
  • “They arrive late, leave early, dress inappropriately, and spend too much time on social media.”
  • “They know how to text but they don’t know how to write a memo.”
  • “They don’t know what to say and what not to say or how to behave in meetings.”
  • “They don’t know how to think, learn, or communicate without checking a device.”
  • “They don’t have enough respect for authority, and don’t know the first thing about good citizenship, service or teamwork.”

Soft skills may be harder to define and measure than hard skills, but they are just as critical.  People get hired because of their hard skills but people get fired because of their soft skills.

Managers ask: “Why should it be my problem to teach these soft skills? They should have learned these things from their parents or in school. How can teach these soft skills when I don’t even remember how I learned them myself?”

Here’s the bad news: Setting a good example or simply telling young workers they need to improve isn’t enough.  Nor is scolding them or pointing out their failings in an annual review.

Here’s the good news:  You can teach the missing basics to today’s young talent.

Now, based on more than twenty years of research, renowned expert on the Millennial workforce Bruce Tulgan offers concrete solutions to help managers teach the missing basics of professionalism, critical thinking, and followership – complete with 92 step-by-step lesson plans designed to be highly flexible and easy to use.

Tulgan’s research and proven approach has show that the key to teaching young people the missing soft skills lies in breaking down the critical soft skills into their component parts; concentrating on one small component at a time; with the help of a teaching-style manager.   Almost all of the exercises can be done in less than an hour within a team meeting or an extended one-on-one. The exercises are easily modified and customized and can be used in many different ways:

  • as “take-home” exercises to any individual or group;
  • to guide one-on-one discussions with direct-reports;
  • in the classroom as written exercises or as group discussions;

Managers —and their young employees— will find themselves returning to their favorite exercises over and over again. One exercise at a time, managers will build up the most important soft skills of their new young talent. These critical soft skills can make the difference between mediocre and good; between good and great; between great and ‘one of a kind.’


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