How to Boost Software Professionals’ Soft Skills, concretely?

The Software Services sector is evolving at a rapid pace and so is the demand for ICT specialists in Europe. While software professionals’ learning programmes do ensure learners get the necessary technical skills they need to perform in their role, profession-related and soft skills are often disregarded.

Key findings of the ESSA’s Needs Analysis Report show the increasing importance of soft skills in the software labour market. However, lots of learning providers do not give them enough attention.

Today we tackle this very issue by answering two questions: which soft skills should be taught in software learning programmes? And, how to teach them effectively? Let’s get started.

Must-have soft skills for software professionals

The ESSA Needs Analysis Report identified the most in-demand soft skills in the software market. Among them, critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-management rank at the top.

Critical thinking allows ICT professionals to adapt to copious changes caused by the rapid rise of the digital industry. Efficient problem-solving is key to quickly identifying issues and developing effective solutions to address them.  Having well-developed self-management skills enhances productivity and improves performance. In the ICT field, it is especially important as many people work autonomously.

How to teach soft skills

In ESSA’s Software Skills Strategy for Europe, we highlight the importance of soft skills in relation to all covered software roles (Developer, DevOps expert, Solution designer, Test specialist, Technical specialist). One of our key findings is that soft skills are actually more important than some of the profession-related skills, such as project management. A set of transferable soft skills is also an entire part of our educational profiles focused on full professional roles.

Now, the question is: how to make non-technical skills part of technical learning programmes?

Guido Ongena, Associate Professor from HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, is sharing his experience and insights into ways of implementing programmes for software professionals that consider the new workforce skills requirements.

  1. Encourage self-reflection

Teaching soft skills is a challenging task. They are typically more difficult to quantify and assess than technical skills. At the HU in Utrecht, personal coaching and training sessions are an important part of professional development, as they evoke reflections and help identify areas to improve. “It is great to hear things such as ‘I really do things differently now’, especially from the people who were sceptical beforehand”, says Guido.

  1. Direct synergy with practice

The programmes for software professionals at HU are practice-oriented. The students come from different backgrounds: they work at various organisations in all kinds of corporate cultures and have different levels of experience. Within the professional skills training, all participants learn how soft skills will help them face challenges and become more effective at work.

  1. Implement 360-degree feedback

Receiving multi-sourced feedback from teachers and peers allows the students to look at themselves from a different perspective. 360-degree reviews can make them realise their hidden strengths and weaknesses, which often turn out to be the underlying factors that drive their performance.

Innovative learning programmes involving soft skills

Soft skills matter in the ICT field and there are more relevant than ever before. They should be considered from the earliest stages of designing learning programmes.

Our recently-released report on How to Design Software Professionals’ Curricula takes upon the ESSA Educational Profiles and Software Skills Strategy. It includes common, universal learning parts focused on both technical and soft skills. Start designing your programme.

Cover Picture by Jason Goodman on Unsplash.