Combining Training and Coaching for Soft Skills Development

Friday, 4. November 2016
Dr Nils Faltin, IMC AG, Germany


Soft Skills like Communication, Negotiation and Time Management are important both for private and business life. They are prime examples of transversal competencies that aid career development and can be applied across the job roles employees face during their career. The DEVELOP project aims to support employees in their career planning by A) measuring transversal competencies and by B) aiding them in planning learning interventions enhancing those competencies. Many companies offer soft skill trainings to their employees. But such trainings usually do not provide a measurement of the skill level and rarely do they support the transfer of the learned skill into work practice. And this would be needed to play the intended role in the project. A possible solution could be to add coaching support to the existing training format. Such a new learning format was developed at IMC and will now be explained.

Participating in a soft skills training can teach you some basic theory on the topic. With role-plays you can feel and see how your behaviour interacts with other people. However, it is still isolated from the experience of practicing softs skills in everyday business life. There is no guarantee that training participants will apply newly learned techniques at the workplace at all. Though if they try, there may be practical obstacles they find difficult to circumvent. A possible solution for this is to combine soft skills training with a personal coaching to support the knowledge transfer into the workplace and to ensure that repeated application will lead to new habits and competence. Even a one-hour weekly coaching session over the course of six to ten weeks can provide the needed pressure and support to ensure participants apply newly learned skills and deepen them in practice.

At IMC, a new blended learning format was designed with the four phases shown in the diagram below: 1) self-study of a web-based training, 2) application in practice with diary notes, 3) individual coaching sessions and 4) learner peer group discussion sessions.


Blended Learning Format at IMC AG

It has been run on the topic of personal time management several times in the last three years in groups of 4 to 10 participants with a total of 34. They judged the training on a scale from 1 – very good to 6 – very bad with an average of 2. The training was successful in teaching time management. For example, in the first run 8 out of 10 participants reached the goals they had set for themselves in the beginning. Success rates were similar in the following runs. When asked which part they found most helpful participants named the coaching, followed by the group sessions, the online course and the tools for self-tracking and note taking they had used.

It turned out training with coaching is not only a good format to teach soft skills, it is also a good means to judge how well different techniques belonging to this skill have been learned. In the last run, five techniques were trained (for example: reducing interruptions and time thieves, planning and setting priorities). Both the learner and the coach judged how well they had learned the technique. The scale was from 1) “Just learned the theory”, 2) “used it in practice”, 3) “using it routinely”. The first four techniques were judged very similar by coach and learners on average with 2.7. The fifth technique, delegation, was judged with 1, as participants said they do not have subordinates to practice it.

In summary three years of experience with this blended learning format of training with coaching show us that the format works well to teach soft skills and even provides a reliable measurement of the extend the skill has been acquired. We look forward to bring this expertise to the DEVELOP application partners so they can use this learning format in their trials of the DEVELOP platform. We believe it will aid their employees in building a solid repertoire of transversal skills for their long term career and aid the company to more precisely measure the acquired competency level.



[1] Faltin, N., Jung, M.: “A course concept for enhancing reflective learning - bringing research project results into the field”, In: ARTEL 2015 - Awareness and Reflection in Technology Enhanced Learning, ISSN 1613-0073, Vol 1465, Oct. 2015

[2] A detailed report of our findings can be found at (in German):