Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent

Bruce Tulgan’s next book on Millennials in the workplace, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, is out now from Wiley/Jossey-Bass.

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The number one challenge with today’s young talent is a problem hiding in plain sight:  The ever-widening “Soft Skills Gap.”

Today’s newest new young workforce has so much to offer – new technical skills, new ideas, new perspective, new energy.  Yet too many of them are held back —and driving the grown-ups crazy— because of their weak soft skills.

Here’s what managers say:

  • “They just don’t know how to behave professionally.”
  • “They arrive late, leave early, dress inappropriately, and spend too much time on social media.”
  • “They know how to text but they don’t know how to write a memo.”
  • “They don’t know what to say and what not to say or how to behave in meetings.”
  • “They don’t know how to think, learn, or communicate without checking a device.”
  • “They don’t have enough respect for authority, and don’t know the first thing about good citizenship, service or teamwork.”

Soft skills may be harder to define and measure than hard skills, but they are just as critical.  People get hired because of their hard skills but people get fired because of their soft skills.

Managers ask: “Why should it be my problem to teach these soft skills? They should have learned these things from their parents or in school. How can teach these soft skills when I don’t even remember how I learned them myself?”

Here’s the bad news: Setting a good example or simply telling young workers they need to improve isn’t enough.  Nor is scolding them or pointing out their failings in an annual review.

Here’s the good news:  You can teach the missing basics to today’s young talent.

Now, based on more than twenty years of research, renowned expert on the Millennial workforce Bruce Tulgan offers concrete solutions to help managers teach the missing basics of professionalism, critical thinking, and followership – complete with 92 step-by-step lesson plans designed to be highly flexible and easy to use.

Tulgan’s research and proven approach has show that the key to teaching young people the missing soft skills lies in breaking down the critical soft skills into their component parts; concentrating on one small component at a time; with the help of a teaching-style manager.   Almost all of the exercises can be done in less than an hour within a team meeting or an extended one-on-one. The exercises are easily modified and customized and can be used in many different ways:

  • as “take-home” exercises to any individual or group;
  • to guide one-on-one discussions with direct-reports;
  • in the classroom as written exercises or as group discussions;

Managers —and their young employees— will find themselves returning to their favorite exercises over and over again. One exercise at a time, managers will build up the most important soft skills of their new young talent. These critical soft skills can make the difference between mediocre and good; between good and great; between great and ‘one of a kind.’


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“This is one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to teaching “soft skills” to a group of young employees in the workplace. To bridge the gap between Gen Z and their supervisors, managers, leaders, and executives and create a collaborative workforce both groups are provided with specific skills sets through exercises and concepts. The book is a must read for those who want to increase their productivity and workplace morale.”

Steve Hanamura, President, Hanamura Consulting, Inc.; Consultant, speaker and author


“As companies like ours develop new solutions in a rapidly transforming industry, it is critical that we identify, recruit and engage new talent that can help lead these transformations. Bruce provides a critical tool in this step by step training guide.”

Raymond R. Ferrell, EVP General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Dex Media, Inc.


“This remarkable book is a must have for any manager with young talent to lead. With extensive scripts and step-by-step lesson plans to improve what Tulgan calls the ‘missing basics,’ it provides everything a manager needs to turn a mediocre younger worker into a truly valued, key player.”

Deborah Orlowski, Ph.D., Senior Learning Specialist, Learning and Professional Development, University of Michigan


“Bruce Tulgan has done it again. Bridging the Soft Skills Gap doesn’t just describe the challenges I see every day with my talented young team – it provides real tools for their development. Businesses and their valued young employees will benefit from these resources and reap long-term rewards.”

Janet Kyle Altman, Marketing Principal, Kaufman Rossin


“Bruce Tulgan has done it again. He has not only well framed the issue of the soft skills gap, but has also given today’s managers practical advice for dealing with it.”

Hank Harris, President and Chief Executive Officer, FMI Corporation


“Well researched, practical and immensely readable, “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap” is destined to be a go-to book for any leader charged with managing during this turbulent changing of the employee guard.”

Joni Thomas Doolin, CEO, TDn2k, Founder, People Report


“Teaching today’s young talent basic soft skills can be a magnificent legacy for seasoned pros. This book is a must-read for managers in any industry, and it is especially relevant in the service sector where soft skills are the face of our business.”

Sharon McPherson, Director of Training & Development, On The Border Restaurants


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