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International Journal of Human Resource Management and Research (IJHRMR) ISSN 2249-6874 Vol.

2, Issue 2 June 2012 132- 140 TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.,

THE ROLE OF SOFT SKILLS IN EMPLOYABILITY


RICHARD REMEDIOS I/C Principal , S.V.E.T Commerce & Management College Jamnagar , India

ABSTRACT
You can give lifetime employability by training people, by making them adaptable, making them mobile to go other places to do other things. But you cant guarantee life time employment.Jack Welch. In the new economy of rapid technological change and increasing business complexity, organizations are striving for developing quality human capital. Soft Skills can provide the path towards this goal. Soft skills are very important to enhance employability. Soft skills need to be enhanced in students to make them competent enough to meet the demands of the current job market. There should be an integrated approach from all the stakeholders such as faculty, students, educational institutions and the industry to bring awareness about soft skills among the students and promote the same for enhancing employability. This paper tries to explain the meaning of soft skills, its importance to increase employability, the sources from where they can be acquired. The paper focuses on the application of various concepts of communication and behavioral aspects of personal effectiveness. It also tries to explain each component of soft skill to be inculcated in students for a better tomorrow as corporate managers.

KEYWORDS: Soft Skills, Life time employment, Employability, Professionalism, Stakeholders. INTRODUCTION
In the new economy of rapid technological change and increasing business complexity, organizations are striving for developing quality human capital. Soft Skills can provide the path towards this goal. The journal focuses on the application of various concepts of communication and behavioral aspects of personal effectiveness. The journal will address all issues of soft skills including Organizational Communication (Corporate Communication), Interpersonal Communication and Global Communication (Cross-Cultural Communication). It would also address issues on stress and attitudes. The journal aims to be a medium of expression and exchange of ideas among soft skills trainers that would be of interest to academicians and industry professionals. It would also be a medium for industry professionals to share their best practices.

WHAT IS SKILL?
A skill is learned ability and capacity to carry out pre-determined steps needed to pursue career in professional objectives with minimum of time and effort. Skills are needed in every area of human endeavour such as self motivation, time management, team building, and leadership traits. The second group of skills include domain specific skills such as design engineering, operations, maintenance or R & D. Most corporate recruiters have to

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say that Today's business graduates have an abundance of technical knowledge. They can do linear programming problems, calculate a discounted rate of return and crunch numbers on a computer spreadsheet. They are technically solid, but most lack the interpersonal and social skills necessary to manage people. If there is an area where business schools need to improve, it's in developing the people skills of their graduates. (Robbins & Hunsaker). Skill can be developed in a conducive environment by a group of experts in what could be called a 'skill clinic', where they find a stimulus for skill development which can also be measured and analyzed. Individuals need a broad range of skill sets for attaining their career objectives to suit every fast changing technology they need to work with in their respective organizations.

WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS?


Before going any further in explaining the term soft skills, we have to clarify the term What are soft skills? The basic question is not easy to answer because the perception of soft skills is different from context to context. A subject may be considered as soft skill in one particular area and a hard skill in another area. On top of it the understanding of soft skill varies widely. Knowledge of project management is nice to have for an electrical engineer, but it is must to have for a civil engineer. Training in cultural awareness might be useful for a chemist but it is a must to have for a human resource management consultant in societies of diverse cultures. The term soft skills was first used in 1972 and was not widely used until the early 1990s. Moss and Tilly define soft skills as skills, abilities, and traits that pertain to personality, attitudes and behavior rather than to formal or technical knowledge. These are a collection of skills and abilities related to the execution of a job, such as communication skills, interpersonal skills, time management skills, negotiation skills, motivation skills, writing skills, problem solving skills and decision making skills. The Wikipedia (2007) defines soft skills as Soft skills refers to the cluster of personality traits, social graces, facility with language, social traits, personal habits, friendliness, positive nature, that mark people to varying degrees. These are essential at every level of the organization. Table I: Examples of Soft Skills Communication Skills Self Management Time Management Skills Critical and Structured thinking Problem Solving skills Creativity Teamwork Capability Responsibility Etiquette and Good Manners Courtesy and Self Esteem Empathy Work Ethics Project Management Business Management

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Conflict Management Cultural Awareness Common Knowledge

Integrity and Honesty

[ Source: Wikipedia (2007)] Table 1 offers a list of soft skills based on the wikipedia definition. The list is not exhaustive. In January 2007, the career management consultant, Challa Ram Phani published an article under the headline The top 60 soft skills at work, listing and discussing those 60 skills which according to his study are the personal traits and skills which employers state are the most important for enhancing the employability for jobs.

ACQUIRING SOFT SKILLS


There are two conventional methods of improving soft skill i.e enrolling for a formal training, e.g taking evening classes on Rhetoric, languages, presentation skills, conflict or cultural management. This is a well proven concept with an advantage of having a certificate at the end of the course, which might come in handy for job applications. The other way of acquiring soft skills is self training usually based on books. Changing of personality traits requires long term practice and therefore self training might be more important to develop this category of skills. Additionally, during the last decade another method of self training has become more popular-e-learning. The article, Yes, web based training can teach soft skills(Horton, 2007) emphasizes the practically of this approach. A very pleasant way of training ones soft skills is frequent socializing with ones friends, relatives, colleagues and other members of the society. Conscious socializing with a specific purpose in mind to enhance soft skills is important. We know already that is this way we can improve this small talk capabilities, but there are a lot more soft skills especially related to communication skills, which can be practiced while chatting and discussing with others in an informal manner e.g language proficiency in general, listening, discussing, etiquette, self esteem or body language. At most of the educational institutions, the teaching methodology is changed to more student centred learning and teaching. Such a shift goes hand in hand in embedding soft skills into the teaching of hard skills. In other words, the students participating in a lecture with the aim of earning a hard skill will inevitably unconsciously practice a range of soft skills. This comes very close to an ideal way of lecturing. Many educators will now rightfully intervene, asking whether the shaping of personal traits does not start at a much earlier stage, lets say at a childs cradle? And of course, this is exactly the case. Parents and schoolteachers have superior influence on a young persons aptitude in soft skills. This puts a lot of responsibility in this regard onto the shoulders of a childs family and school.

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ENHANCING STUDENTS SOFT SKILLS FOR EMPLOYABILITY


The challenge before the industry does not lie in the supply of talent but rather that of employability. Azim Premji, Chairman Wipro Ltd. To enhance employability, students must review and assess the requirements of recruiters. Those who are better equipped with both hard and soft skills are likely to survive and succeed on the professional front. It is often observed that students who are academically strong have a know it all attitude that prevents them from learning and growing. Recruiters stick to the slogan recruit for attitude and train for skill. The students need to know the basic expectation of the company to present and evolve themselves accordingly. It is essential to revolutionalise the present educational system in India by plugging the grey areas and by making it practical and employment oriented. To enhance employability, effective synchronization and coordination between the five stakeholders, namely faculty, students, industry, training and placement officer (TPO) and directors of educational institutions, is necessary. A first step in improving soft skills of students is to raise their awareness about the importance of soft skills and the consequences of shortcomings in this regard. Students should be encouraged to enhance their soft skills by applying the methods we mentioned before, e.g. reading dedicated books, attending courses, and joining clubs or societies to broaden their horizon, like debating societies, Toast Masters who are practicing Rhetoric, or scientific societies who offer presentations and discussions. A formal approach to the problem would be to incorporate soft skills subjects into a programmes curriculum. On lower levels a course that requires students to do a bit of research and to present their results to the class afterwards has been proven as being quite effective. On graduate level a course on management skills, including e.g. some communication skills together with the management of time, conflict, cultural issues, and of major importance, oneself, has in practice been well received by students. However, very often the curricula are already overloaded with hard skills courses, making it almost impossible to add or substitute courses. Furthermore, other lecturers might be ignorant of the importance of soft skills and hence, do not support dedicated courses in this regard. A very elegant way of offering soft skills training to students is to embed it into the teaching of hard skills. This way, no changes to a programmes curriculum are necessary; instead the change will be reflected in the lecturers teaching methodology. An increase in group discussions, letting students do presentations can be applied throughout a course. This approach to practicing soft skills requires some re-thinking and re-planning of existing hard skill courses. An example would be a mathematics teacher who plans a lecture by firstly determining what soft skills s/he wishes to enhance on that day, and then secondly considers how the required mathematics content can be arranged to support this goal. Correctly applied, such an approach to teaching will automatically increase the attractiveness and effectiveness of a course regarding both, hard skills and soft skills.

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Table II. The? Must Have? and ?Good To Have? Elements of Soft Skills No. Soft Skills Must Skills) Have Elements (SubGood To Have Elements

(Sub-Skills) Ability to use technology

Ability to deliver idea clearly, effectively and with confidence either orally or in writing 1. Communicative Skills Ability to practice active listening skill and respond. Ability to present clearly and confidently to the audience.

during presentation. Ability to discuss and arrive at a consensus. Ability to communicate with individual from a different cultural background. Ability to expand one?s own communicative skill. Ability to use non-oral skills.

Ability to identify and analyze problems in difficult situation and make justifiable evaluation. 2. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills Ability to expand and improve thinking skills such as

Ability to think beyond.. Ability to make conclusion based on valid proof. Ability to withstand and give Ability full to

responsibility.

explanation, analysis and evaluate discussion. Ability to find ideas and look for alternative solutions. Ability to build a good rapport , interact and work effectively with others. Ability to understand and play the 3. Team Work role of a leader and follower alternatively. Ability to recognize and respect other?s attitude, behavior and beliefs. Ability to find and manage

understand and accommodate oneself to the varied working environment

Ability to give contribution to the planning and coordinate group work. Responsible decision. towards group

Ability to develop an inquiry

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4.

Life-Long Learning & Information Management Skill

relevant information from various sources. Ability to receive new ideas performs autonomy learning.

mind and seek knowledge.

Ability to propose business 5. Entrepreneurship skill Ability to identify job opportunity. Ability to build, explore and seek business opportunities and job. Ability to be self-employed. Ability to understand the economy crisis, environment and social cultural aspects professionally. 6. Ethics, Moral & Ability to analyze make problem solving decisions related to ethics. Professional Ability to practice ethical

opportunities.

attitudes besides having the responsibility towards society.

Knowledge of the basic theories of leadership. 7. Leadership skill Ability to lead a project.

Ability to understand and take turns as a leader and follower alternatively. Ability to supervise members of a group.

Only a quality future human capital can envision development of its nation to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, the inculcation of soft skills among the students will be two prongs, to produce quality human capital and to develop their knowledge, understanding, values and skills as well. How the two skills blend together will be discussed here.

COMMUNICATIVE SKILLS
The communicative skills involve effective communication in both the national language and English language in different contexts and with different people. There are eight sub-skills under communicative skills of which three are the must have skills and five are the good to have skills. Communicative skills are an integral part of any education system either in higher education or lower education. As mentioned earlier, in many countries, basic education or primary education is mandatory and it focuses on reading, writing and ciphering. People learn to read books, write letters, figure accounts and develop skills necessary to fulfill their expected roles in their households and community. At this

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very level, emphasis has been given to develop the communicative skills of individual so that by the time they leave college, they are able to participate in public and community activities and decision making. What is found to be missing in the nation?s present human capital is the lack of communicative skills. The absence of good communicative skills somehow or rather has an influence on the poor presentation of their views and decisions made to gain others? confidence and respect. Communicative skills have also been greatly emphasized in the reorientation of basic education for ESD (Education for sustainable development) which is: the ability to communicate effectively (both orally and in writing). The communicative skill seemed to be one important component that lacks in the future human capital. The incompetence of the future graduates to master both languages will be a set-back to a lot of potential development and advancement of the country. Thus, this is a good time to reorientate the curriculum of higher institutions to embed communicative skills.

CRITICAL THINKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS


This skill includes the ability to think critically, creatively, innovatively and analytically. It also involves the ability to apply knowledge and understanding to new and different problems as well. For ESD to be successful, it must give people practical skills that will enable them to continue learning after they leave school, to have a sustainable livelihood and to live sustainable lives. The critical thinking skills, skills to organize and interpret data and information, skills to formulate questions and the ability to analyze issues that confront communities are greatly addressed in the reorientation of basic education in ESD. The following are some examples of skills that comply with ESD and some of these skills are similar to the ?soft skills? being emphasized in the curriculum of higher education. The ability to think about systems (both natural and social sciences). The ability to think in time-to forecast, to think ahead, and to plan The ability to think critically about value issues. The ability to separate number, quantity, quality and values.

THE SKILL OF TEAM WORK


The ability to work with people from different social cultural background to achieve a common goal. Students are encouraged to play their role in the group and to respect opinions and attitudes of others in the group. They are also expected to contribute to the group?s plan and coordinate the group?s effort besides being responsible to the group?s decision. This skill is also part of ESD as stated in the reorientation of basic education: the ability to work cooperatively with other people. If the future human capital can attain these skills, we can be rest assure that the future generation will collaborate ideas and cooperate a taskforce towards the well-being of the nation.

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LIFE-LONG LEARNING AND MANAGEMENT OF INFORMATION


This skill involves an effort to learn to be independent or self-regulated learning in acquiring skills and new knowledge. The ability to find and manage relevant information from various sources is also a criterion of this soft skill. Besides this, students are also expected to develop an inquiry mind and crave for knowledge. As mentioned earlier, these characteristics are equally important in ESD in order for an individual to be media literate and consumer knowledgeable. Life-long learning will enable individuals to accumulate as much knowledge and skills over the years. The ability to manage information well will allow an individual to distinguish between good and bad, to adopt the best practices and to make sound decisions.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP SKILL
The ability to seek business opportunity and develop risk awareness. It also involves being creative and innovative in activities related to business and tasks. To design and plan business propositions and the ability to be self employed. This skill can in some ways contribute to the society if the training and practice is done for a good purpose.

ETHICS, MORAL AND PROFESSIONAL


The ability to practice a high moral standard in professional tasks and social interaction. This skill also includes the ability to analyze ethical problems and make problem solving decisions. Having a sense of responsibility towards society is another criterion of this soft skill.

LEADERSHIP SKILL
The ability to lead in various activities and tasks. This is an important criterion in ESD for planning and implementing ideas in a group. This skill is also important to lead in discussion and make decision.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS & PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT


Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Components of personalities and their studies through ages have been extensive. In a nutshell, it includes consistency, psychological and physiological construct, impact behaviours and actions, multiple expressions, etc. Personality is displayed by the way it is expressed and that is where communication plays a major role. Expressions could be of various types but broadly they are all ways and styles of communication. Communication is another major area which contributes to personality development as well as organizational success. Lack of effective communication is main issue in most organizations. Formal education in communication is directed at reading and writing skills that are not often used at workplace. Most employees often lack any formal training in listening. Workers who can express their ideas orally and who understand verbal instructions make fewer mistakes, adjust more easily to change, and more readily absorb new ideas than those who do not. Thus, career growth is enhanced by training in oral communication and listening as these skills contribute to an employee's success in all related areas,

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namely, interviewing, making presentations at or conducting meetings; negotiating and resolving conflicts; being assertive while leading a team or selling a product; teaching, coaching or retraining; giving supervisors feedback about customers' expectations, etc. Employees spend most of the day communicating, and such periods of communication will increase as robots, computers, and other machines start performing mundane and repetitive jobs. Communication skills typically refer to ability to deliver an idea clearly, effectively, and with confidence either orally or written; ability to practice active listening skills and respond appropriately; ability to present clearly and confidently before others.

CONCLUSIONS
Considering the fact that during the last decades in society the perceived importance of soft skills has increased significantly, it is of high importance for everyone to acquire adequate skills beyond academic or technical knowledge. This is not particularly difficult. Once a shortcoming in a certain area of soft skills has been identified at oneself, there are numerous ways of rectifying such a deficiency. Educators have a special responsibility regarding soft skills, because during students School and University time they have major impact on the development of their students soft skills. Besides raising awareness regarding the importance of soft skills and encouraging students to improve their skills, lecturers should actively practice soft skills with their students. A very effective and efficient way of doing this is to include soft skills training into the teaching of hard skills. As a positive side effect the lessons will become more attractive, which in turn will increase the success rate of learners. Soft skills fulfil an important role in shaping an individuals personality by complementing his/her hard skills. However, over-emphasising it to such an extent should not taint the importance of soft skills, that hard skills, i.e. expert knowledge in certain fields, are demoted to secondary importance.

REFERENCES
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. British Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR): www.agr.org.uk Horton W., Horton K.: www.horton.com Iyer, Rukmini: http://us.rediff.com/getahead/2005/jun/30soft.htm Phani, Challa Ram: http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2007/jan/08soft.htm PISA: www.pisa.oecd.org Waggoner, Jaqueline: http://mountainrise.wcu.edu/html/waggoner.pdf Wikipedia: www.e.wikipedia.com