4 Soft Skills Training Activities and Games for Virtual Learners
At this point, we’ve all gotten used to working remotely. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve all mastered everything about the virtual learning environment.
Most people know how to turn on their video, share their screen, and keep their pets occupied during a virtual training session. But too many people still struggle with the soft skills that help them really connect with people over Zoom, WebEx, Teams, or the virtual meeting platform of your choice.
This blog will explain how to learn soft skills online through soft skills training activities and games. Plus, tips on how to conduct soft skills training as a virtual instructor.
The Demand for Soft Skills
The shift in demand for soft skills in the workforce has been trending for several years. Studies from EMSI and IBM show that the real “skills in demand” are communications, adaptability, and learning. Last year, a LinkedIn study found that 91% of companies say soft skills are an important consideration in hiring and the workplace.
With the rapid shift to virtual workers, we see a crucial need to provide different types of soft skills training for employees. Soft skills online learning is the wave of the future when it comes to training your workforce.
Soft Skills Aren’t Hard…
Soft skills are important to develop as a trainer, employee, and manager. Empathy, active listening, and communication soft skills training create better experiences for all virtual workers.
As the virtual training leader, you need to be even more focused on creating connections with learners than ever before. Instead of having a room where you can walk around and physically interact with learners, you’re stuck as the face in a small box on their computer screen.
You’re just one of many things fighting for learners’ attention. Your goal needs to be creating an actual human experience.
Tips for Improving Online Learning Experiences
- Meet Learners Where They Are
Acknowledge the challenges we’re all facing these days and be willing to flex your agenda or talking points to what learners tell you (both verbally and non-verbally).
- Give Learners Space
Particularly during discussion activities, consider allowing learners more time to talk about their feelings and opinions, as appropriate or relevant. Creating this margin requires a looser agenda than you would for an in-person training session.
- Look Learners in the Eye (or Maybe Not)
Remember that people present themselves differently online than in person. In person, it might look like someone who’s not making eye contact is avoiding it. In a virtual training session, learners look at your face on their computer screens, not directly at the camera (i.e., “your eyes”).
- Offer Learning (and Video) Breaks
Every day people are learning new work from home skills and how to navigate the virtual norm best. Can learners still take part in the training with their camera off? Consider letting your learners take a camera break. People get tired of looking at themselves and having to feel “on” all of the time. We call this Zoom fatigue.
Do you see a trend here? We’re talking about skills like active listening, effective communication, understanding non-verbal cues, and empathy. You can improve soft skills online, but it will look different than it has before.
The good news is that you’re not doomed if you weren’t born with soft skills. Instead, each one can be practiced and improved over time, then applied to your virtual training sessions (and your life). Best of all, doing so is easy and—dare we say—fun!
Not Sure How to Teach Soft Skills Online? It’s Game Time!
Soft skills training activities and games are entertaining ways to help learners identify their improvement opportunities and strengthen their current skill sets. Better yet, since there’s rarely “right” or “wrong” answers in soft skills games, it’s a perfect way to get learners out of their training ruts. You can build essential skills in learners, with relatively low stakes, using soft skills training activities and games.
The following interpersonal skills games/activities are well suited for the virtual learning environment. As a virtual trainer, consider participating in these soft skills exercises to engage learners (and have a little fun yourself, too).
1. Game: “Yes, and…”
Goal: Effective communication.
If you’re looking for activities to improve communication skills in the workplace, write down this training game. “Yes, and…” is a common game among improv performers and gets learners thinking quickly.
- Create breakout rooms with at least three people.
- The first person makes up and says the first line of a story.
- The second person says, “Yes, and…,” continuing the story.
- And so on.
Takeaway: Since learners don’t know what’s coming, they have to learn how to react and communicate well on the fly.
2. Game: “Because…”
Goal: Improve active listening.
“Because…” is another improv activity, similar to “Yes, and…,” but it requires learners to listen even more closely.
- Create breakout rooms with at least three people.
- The first person starts a story.
- The next person repeats what the previous person said, then adds “because” and adds the next part of the story.
- And so on.
Takeaway: Learners need to practice good communication skills, active listening, and have great memory recall to reference the ongoing story.
3. Game: Emotional Charades
Goal: Better understand non-verbal cues.
This game helps learners recognize unspoken emotions in others and become more aware of how others perceive them.
- You can facilitate Emotional Charades in breakouts or as a larger group.
- One person gives the clues while the others guess.
- The leader makes facial expressions, changes posture, moves around, etc. to express a specific emotion.
- Use a chat or polling feature, so participants can guess or vote on which emotion is being displayed.
- As a follow-up discussion, ask people why they answered with a particular emotion, looking for differences of opinion.
Takeaway: Learners will recognize cultural factors and unconscious biases that can cause differences in how expressions are perceived.
4. Game: Looking Out of a Window
Goal: Improve empathy.
“Looking out of a window” is an online soft skills training game that helps learners understand others’ perspectives by “seeing” the world through their eyes.
- Create breakout rooms of three or more.
- Without saying what it is, one learner chooses a profession or persona.
- As that persona, the learner describes what they see and focuses on when they look out a window.
- Other learners comment and guess what the persona or profession is.
- Learners then switch roles.
Takeaway: Learners better understand other people’s emotions, what’s important to them, and, almost literally, their point of view on the world.
For example, a meteorologist and a landscaper might look out of their window at a grassy field and blue skies. The meteorologist might examine the clouds and look for the way the wind is blowing them. The landscaper might look at the types of trees and flowers or the grass’s height—the same view out of a window, but different perspectives on what they see.
Virtual Soft Skills Training for Employees
This is just the beginning of the virtual training skills you can develop in your team. Activities to improve communication skills for adults through interactive games can boost soft skills and engage your learners in new ways.
While there is a sense of urgency to improve skills for working remotely now, soft skills will continue to take center stage as the future of work evolves. Consider upskilling an investment that pays off for both the employee and your company.
Need a partner to help you put these ideas into practice or create the best online soft skills training? Contact Unboxed Training & Technology and let us know how we can help you train your team remotely.