Soft skills and remote learning: Improving engagement for early career professionals

In our previous blog, we reflected on the early careers engagement research from Cappfinity Principal Learning Designer, Lucie Coudret.

Coudret’s research has already considered some of the reasons for disconnect between early career professionals (ECPs) and their work environments and colleagues, such as perceived inequality due to age and concerns around mental health and wellbeing.  Here we consider the importance of skills and learning for improving connection between organizations and ECPs.

Key soft skills in a climate of uncertainty

As part of the research, Lucie was interested in finding out more about the learning experience for those individuals who had joined a range of organizations (from the Big Four, to private and public organizations and charities) remotely during the pandemic; and what technical or soft skills were needed for that age group. The challenges of knowledge transfer remotely were also discussed and generally, participants described their learning curve as steep and even “traumatic”.

In her analysis, she identified 5 main soft skills that were key in learning when working in a climate of uncertainty and when working remotely.

1. Communication (virtually)

Best practices when it comes to communicating through new technology, ‘Zoom etiquette’.

2. Autonomy

Ability to work without supervision, showing initiative and not relying as much on colleagues to answer questions.

3. Agility

Ability to be flexible and adapt to changes as they arise, especially in a climate of uncertainty.

4. Patience

Understanding that learning new things and acquiring new skills takes time as well as accepting timely responses (as opposed to instant responses to questions when being in an office).

5. Time management and organizational skills

Linked to personal management, creating boundaries etc. when work and home blends into one.

Little engagement on formal learning platforms

According to the research, the learning platforms provided by the organizations were not effective and participants admitted to not engaging with them much due to lack of time (heavy workloads) and due to having no guidance from managers or colleagues on what they would need to learn or would be useful for them to know/learn.

Participants shared that they would usually practice ‘just in time’ learning, when necessary, for example finding a video on how to do a formula in Excel. Many repeated that they didn’t feel the ‘important’ learning would occur on platforms but more in the office, through conversations and interactions. Particularly when it came to knowledge transfer and most importantly tacit knowledge. Knowledge transfer was deeply affected when working remotely, especially when newer to an organization: it slows down the speed of learning and feels inefficient and frustrating which perhaps was intensified by feeling siloed and not wanting to bother their busy bosses/managers too much.

Other sources of learning were identified, such as having mentors, which didn’t always work due to not having the right match or having an informal set-up. Feedback was also a source of learning and development, which in the participant’s opinions, did not occur nearly enough as they would have liked.

Cappfinity offer a range of simple-to-implement packages to help managers wisely engage and inspire their teams in a hybrid world, give effective feedback and help each individual feel like they belong; and those earlier in their career to make a positive early impact by harnessing their strengths to build the critical soft skills highlighted above. For a deeper conversation around these themes, do get in touch to set up a call via