After being ranked as the top priority since 2009, a survey from learning content specialists Video Arts reveals that 63 per cent of L&D professionals will now prioritise the soft skills of their employees over leadership training during the next 12 months.
Other key areas of focus for L&D are customer service training, professional skills development and compliance training.
Martin Addison, CEO of Video Arts, said: "Leadership development has been the top priority in our survey for the past three years, as many organisations have believed that the secret of greater success lies in more effective leadership.
"This year it has been pushed into second place as L&D teams are increasingly recognising that technical qualifications and knowledge are not enough; employees also need soft skills for organisations to be successful.
"Issues of personality, attitude and behaviour have a big impact on performance in the workplace because they affect how well people are able to communicate face-to-face and work effectively with others."
The report also asked L&D teams about how they deliver training and their plans for the future. Findings revealed that face-to-face training is still widely used, with 81 per cent of organisations using classroom learning. E-learning (79 per cent), coaching (72 per cent) and experiential learning (53 per cent) remain popular options, while newer forms of delivery are also gaining ground, most notably virtual classrooms and mobile learning.
Interestingly, a growing number of L&D teams (51 per cent) are now using e-learning to provide soft skills development. E-learning is also used for compliance training (53 per cent), health and safety training (47 per cent); leadership and management training (42 per cent); induction training (42 per cent); professional skills training (34 per cent) and customer service training (37 per cent). A further 18% of L&D practitioners who don' t use e-learning say they plan to implement it in the future.
"E-learning is enjoying a resurgence and our data shows that organisations are increasingly using video in e-learning to provide a richer media experience," Addison said.
"It used to be that e-learning courses were used more widely for 'hard skills', such as IT training, compliance and health and safety but the need to provide cost effective training, combined with the availability of better courses and better IT support, seems to be encouraging more organisations to use e-learning for soft skills development."
Elsewhere, one in five organisations claim their training budget will be increased over the coming year; 53 per cent say it will stay the same and 27 per cent expect it to be cut.
Not surprisingly, 86 per cent of L&D teams use video in their training, predominantly as part of classroom training (71 per cent); for short pieces of bite-sized learning (56 per cent); for online training (29 per cent); in self-authored e-learning courses (27 per cent) and to support one-to-one coaching (21 per cent). Video is primarily used in soft skills development (60 per cent); leadership and management training (55 per cent); customer service training (51 per cent) and professional skills training (38 per cent).
The most popular applications for mobile learning are soft skills development, leadership and management training, professional skills, product training and customer service training.
"Advocates of m-learning claim it delivers learning at the point of need and that users are more likely to participate because of the bite-sized format.
"We expect that more L&D teams will consider m-learning as a delivery option in the future," Addison concluded.