Press Release

During Time of Budget Cuts, Don’t Eliminate Soft Skills Training: Champion Them


(Alexandria, VA) August 4, 2020—While it is tempting to eliminate spending on training—particularly on soft skills training—during times of budget cuts, ROI experts Jack Phillips, Patti Phillips, and Rebecca Ray caution you to think twice about eliminating them and suggest that investing in soft skills may be better. No matter what, you should measure the impact of your soft skills programs before cutting them.

In Proving the Value of Soft Skills: Measuring Impact and Calculating ROI (ATD Press, August 2020), the authors assert that an organization’s mastery of soft skills (skills that are transferable, personal, and interpersonal related such as teamwork, empathy, creativity, communication, and complex problem-solving) will often define the difference between thriving and surviving. They offer a new methodology for showing the ROI of soft skills programs—one that eliminates the perceived problem that soft skills cannot be measured.

Why has measuring the value of soft skills gained more interest and significance? During the past decade, various forces have driven additional focus on soft skills programs’ financial contribution and ROI. These forces include program failures, budgets and costs, measurement beyond the impact level, evidence-based management, benchmarking limitations, and executive appetite for monetary value. They have challenged the old ways of defining program success.

Most executives will admit that soft skills programs create the most admired, sustainable, and innovative organizations. Soft skills are critical and often an executive’s top concern regarding the capability of their employees. “Because of the recession caused by COVID and resulting budget cuts, it is more important than ever to consider soft skills programs. There is an even greater need for them now than before the pandemic. But we see soft skills programs facing many challenges,” says Jack Phillips. “The problem is that most executives aren’t shown the value of the soft skills programs in the terms they appreciate and understand—unlike what they may receive for hard skills (job-related skills that are profession-specific). The challenge is to evaluate key soft skills programs at the impact and maybe even the ROI levels.”

Major programs in leadership development, communications, engagement, team building, empowerment, culture, and change management need this accountability. “Some learning professionals are reluctant to go down this path because they are concerned that soft skills programs do not deliver a positive ROI. This misconception plays right into the hands of the executives who must control costs and are not sure of the value,” explains Rebecca Ray.

“However, you can show the ROI of these programs,” states Patti Phillips. “And the odds are high that the value is greater for soft skills programs than for hard skills programs. In our book, we present the ROI Methodology, which is the most-used evaluation system in the world. It is ideally suited for evaluating soft skills programs because it collects up to six types of data, representing five levels of outcomes, to show a program success:

• Reaction to the soft skills program
• Learning the skills and behaviors needed for success
• Application of skills and competencies
• Impact related to the application of soft skills competencies
• Financial return on investment, showing cost versus benefits
• Intangible benefits connected to the program.”

Top executives now demand ROI calculations and monetary contributions from programs and services where they were not previously required. For years, managers and department heads convinced executives that soft skills could not be measured, and the value of these programs should be taken on faith. Unfortunately, executives no longer buy that argument; they demand the same accountability from these functions as they do from the sales and production areas of the organization. These major forces are requiring organizations to shift their measurement processes to include the financial impact and ROI.


About the Authors

Patti P. Phillips, PhD, CEO of ROI Institute, is a renowned leader in measurement and evaluation. Patti helps organizations implement the ROI Methodology in more than 70 countries around the world. Since 1997, she has been a driving force in the global adoption of the ROI Methodology and the use of measurement and evaluation to drive organizational change. Her work spans private, public, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations. Patti is a member of the board of trustees of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the International Federation of Training and Development

She is the chair of the Institute for Corporate Productivity People Analytics Board; principal research fellow for The Conference Board; board chair of the Center for Talent Reporting (CTR); and is an Association for Talent Development (ATD) Certification Institute CPTD fellow. Patti also serves on the faculty of the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy. The Thinkers50 organization has recognized Patti and Jack Phillips as two of the Top 50 World Leaders in Coaching.

Jack J. Phillips, PhD, is a world-renowned expert on accountability, measurement, and evaluation and chairman of ROI Institute, through which he provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and workshops for major conference providers around the world. With more than 27 years of corporate experience in the aerospace, textiles, metals, construction materials, and banking industries, Jack has served as a training and development manager at two Fortune 500 firms, senior HR officer at two firms, president of a regional federal savings bank, and management professor at a major state university.

He is also the author or editor of more than 100 books and more than 300 articles. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Fortune, among other outlets. He is the recipient of many awards, including ATD’s Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Development award, the Brand Personality Award from Asia Pacific Brands Foundation for his work as an international consultant, author, teacher, and speaker. The International Society for Performance Improvement gave him the prestigious Thomas F. Gilbert Award in 2018.


Rebecca L. Ray, PhD, is executive vice president, human capital, at The Conference Board. She is responsible for member engagement and retention as well as the quality and integration of all offerings across the human capital spectrum, including research, peer learning networks (councils), conferences, webcasts, and experiential and executive events. Previously, she
was an executive at several leading organizations, including three Fortune 50 companies.

She has been responsible for talent acquisition, learning and leadership development, employee engagement, performance management, executive assessment, coaching, and succession management. A contributor to Forbes, Rebecca is a frequent speaker at conferences and briefings around the world. Her research, commentary, and the accomplishments of her teams have been featured in the Financial Times, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal, among other major magazines and outlets. She was named chief learning officer of the year by Chief Learning Officer magazine and one of the top 100 people in leadership development by Leadership Excellence magazine.

About ATD and ATD Press

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world’s largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. ATD’s members come from more than 120 countries and work in public and private organizations in every industry sector. ATD Press publications are written by industry thought leaders and offer anyone who works with adult learners the best practices, academic theory, and guidance necessary to move the profession forward. For more information, visit

Proving the Value of Soft Skills: Measuring Impact and Calculating ROI
ISBN: 9781950496631| 328 Pages | Paperback
To order books from ATD Press, call 800.628.2783.

To schedule an interview with Jack Phillips, Patti Phillips, or Rebecca Ray, please contact Kay Hechler, ATD Press senior marketing manager, at [email protected] or 703.683.8178.

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