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Soft skills a theoretical perspective

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  • 1. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)1SOFT SKILLS: A THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVEDr. Amarja Satish NargundeAssociate Professor, Department of Management Studies atBharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Institute of Management & Rural DevelopmentAdministration, Sangli 416416ABSTRACTCorporate organizations too, have their long and tough recruitment and selectionprocess, from resume-screening, aptitude tests and multi-level of interview. The aim is justnot only to filter out inappropriate candidates but is also to find out people who have‘something’ to make them highly effective and efficient. Such employees are considered asthe biggest assets and high quality workforce makes direct difference to company’s growthand competitiveness. Employees with ‘right stuff’ stand out among the crowd. Former AppleCEO Steve Jobs, former GE CEO Jack Welch and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have beenable to prove their excellence as corporate leaders and have been looked up as examples tofollow. There are many examples of those who have risen from ranks and files and succeed inreaching to the top most position of the organization. There are those who were never inmerit list of school or college and always back benchers but in life they have achievedsuccess making people wonder what is that ‘extra’ makes some people more successful thanothers. The answer for ‘right stuff’ or ‘extra’ is ‘Soft skills’.INTRODUCTIONMore and more young men and women prefer corporate world to make their careerpaths into. The reason is not that they are paid well, but it is considered as a fair place whichrecognizes performance and reward employees according to it. Increased opportunities areemerging with new foreign multi-nationals but also due to existing companies are expandingoperations in India. Domestic market is growing and so is the size of the middle class.Business houses like manufacturing companies, airlines, retail stores, fast food chains andfinancial services have carving out more pie in the national as well as international economy.Cross border workflow has necessitated increased communication and additional interactionwith many, many people from different cultures. Both quantity and diversity has increasedcreating many challenges.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT (IJM)ISSN 0976-6502 (Print)ISSN 0976-6510 (Online)Volume 4, Issue 3, (May - June 2013), pp. 01-07© IAEME: www.iaeme.com/ijm.aspJournal Impact Factor (2013): 6.9071 (Calculated by GISI)www.jifactor.comIJM© I A E M E
  • 2. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)2Some of the challenges which need to be considered in the view of changing businessscenario:1. Diversity: As Thomas Friedman has said “Geography is History”. World is turninginto a global village. National boundaries are shrinking. Globalization has madepeople from different countries and cultures work together. Indian engineers areworking shoulder to shoulder with their U.S. and European counterparts.2. Long term orientation: Youngsters should not get carried away by the glamour of thecorporate world but should be able to view the big picture and should develop longterm thinking for their own as well as organizational progress.3. Telecommunication: Widespread use of telecommunication has made physicalexistence optional and has created many virtual organizations and virtual teams whichare scattered across large geographical area.INDIAN BACKGROUNDIndia is known as IT (Information Technology) and ITeS (Information TechnologyEnabled Services) hub of the world. Going by the latest numbers (in 2012/13) IT-BPO(business process outsourcing) exports and domestic market revenues are expected to total$108 billion in this year, the industry grew 15 per cent in 2011/12. The industry provides jobsto 2.8 million, and indirectly employing 8.9 million people.Indias institutes of higher learning produce approximately 3.1 million graduates everyyear. India currently has around 347 institutes of higher learning and 16,885 colleges with atotal enrollment of over 9.9 million. These institutes produce around 495,000 technicalgraduates, nearly 2.3 million other graduates and over 300,000 post-graduates every year.However it has been observed that there is a gap between industry demand and muchof time of organizations are spending on retraining the newly recruited employees to bringthem to industry levels. Large numbers of these youngsters are not ready to face stiffcompetition which exists in ever demanding corporate world. India can have muchcompetitive advantage as majority of its population would be young and reasonably welleducated. What is required is retraining, continuous improvement of young men and womento be groomed in the art and science of being professionals. It is important to instill strongmeasure called ‘Soft Skills’.MeaningSoft skills are essentially people skills which are non-technical, intangible andpersonality specific skills that determine one’s strength as a leader, listener, negotiator orconflict mediator. It consists of combination of several components like attitude, abilities,habits and practices to maximize work effectiveness. There should be right proportion of eachof component which will turn into formidable skills and eventually transforming intocompetencies.It consists of strong and healthy attitude, feeling of good about self and able to relate toenvironment, better resulting in effective communication and polished etiquette.Definition“All those skills over and above technical knowledge and expertise in chose field, requiredfor an individual to relate to and survive and succeed in his or her environment.”
  • 3. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)3Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a persons "EQ" (Emotional Quotient), the clusterof personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness,and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hardskills (part of a persons IQ), which are the occupational requirements of a job and manyother activities.Soft skills is simply a term relating to a collection of personality traits, positive attributes,social graces, communication abilities and competencies that enhance an employeesrelationship and performance on the job that lead to a "total fit".Types of Skill Categories1. Technical or Hard Skills2. Non-Technical SkillsThree Key Differences between Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills• People with good hard skills usually have left brain-the logical center orientation and withstrong IQ (intelligent quotient). Soft skills require good Emotional Intelligence orEQ (also known as right brain- the emotional center). Examples of hard skills includemath, physics, accounting, programming, finance, biology, chemistry, statistics, etc.• For Hard skills the rules stay the same regardless organizations, circumstance or peopleone works with. In contrast, soft skills are self management skills and people skillswhere there are no fixed and application of soft skills change depending on theorganizational culture and people to work with. For example, programming is a hardskill. The rules for creating the best code are same whether the person works in Infosysor TCS. But for communication skills which are a set of soft skills, how to be effective atcommunication changes and depends on the receiver and the type of message which is tobe communicated.• Hard skills are taught in schools and can be learned from books. There are differentlevels for excelling in hard skills. For example, programming is a hard skill. One cantake basic programming course say in Java and then Advanced Java course. For softskills there is no simple path. Most soft skills are not taught well in school and have to belearned on the job by trial and error. Books and guides on soft skills can help to anextent. But there is no alternative to practicing those skills to excel in it.Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills – What is more important?It depends highly on the career one chooses. Careers can be put into 3 types of categories.1. Careers that need hard skills and little soft skillsThis is where you see genius people who cannot deal well with people. They can stillexcel in careers. For example: a mathematician.2. Careers that need both hard and soft skillsFor example: Accountants, Lawyers or teachers – they need to have good knowledge ofaccounting or law or the subject a teacher teaches but they should also be good incommunicating with clients or for teachers, to students to build a successful career.Dealing well with clients requires excellent soft skills like communication skills,interpersonal skills etc.
  • 4. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)43. Careers that need mostly soft skills and little hard skillsFor example in sales, a car salesman need not have all the knowledge of engineeringaspects. But he just needs to know little more than the customers. His job is moredependent on his ability to understand customers’ needs, planning sales talk, convincingabilities and finally clinching the sales. These are all basically types of soft skills.CHARACTERISTICS OF SOFT SKILLS1. Combination of all: Soft skills are not just pleasing personality, technical skills,smooth talking or command over language but combination of all. These skills varyfrom time to time, culture to culture and situation to situation.2. Abstract concept: It is possible to detect absence of soft skills. Like a critic wouldsay ‘something is wrong’ without being able to tell what to do to make right or whatis right then.3. Applies to any industry: Whether IT or manufacturing, family business ormultinational corporations, soft skills are absolute essential for success. It is not icingon the cake as considered optional but it is the dough itself without which cake can’tbe made.4. Not ‘Quantifiable’ but ‘subjective’: Soft skills can’t be measured like IQ and nonumber can be assigned to it. They are difficult to measure in terms of number.5. Rarely taught but caught: Soft skills cannot be formally taught in the same way asyou can teach engineering principles or mathematics but soft skills are learned byobservation and example setting. Person should adapt to environment, tuningantennae to catch soft skills.6. Culture dependent: In Indian context being assertive or vocal is considered negativesign but in the American context lack of it, is considered as poor skills.WHAT ARE NOT SOFT SKILLS1. Good language command and vocabulary: Language knowledge is must but use ofmere empty poetic words does not make anybody good communicator. Knowledge ofsynonyms, antonyms, prepositions, articles and other grammar elements is definitelyessential. But soft skills are more than it. It is the ability to apply right language, at theright time and at right place in an effective way.2. Good talking: Soft skills are considered as communication and that too spokencommunication. Essential to management jobs only. Soft skills are consideredessential for only management jobs and not technical jobs. Howeverpromotional/career paths start with technical, and later leading to administrative andmanagerial jobs. It is impossible for a person to develop soft skills ‘just in time’before taking up managerial role and simply it will not work.3. No need of hard skills: Another extreme is the fallacy that people can succeed justbecause they are highly social and can talk better than the others. Soft skills are notsame as being able to talk in poetic or flowery language.4. People are born with soft skills and not made: This is another misconception thatsoft skills run in blood and can’t be changed until the blood is changed. The truth issoft skills can be learned just like programming, bike riding or cooking. It may not befully possible to fully teach soft skills but they can be learned with efforts.
  • 5. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)5SOFT SKILLS IN INDIAN SCENARIOAdvantageous points1. Most professionals pick up sufficient knowledge of English grammar and usage intheir college years. It is just a little push which is required to reach next level ofcompetence. Therefore there has been wide spread of call centers that train largenumber of people in short term to meet international standards of spoken English.2. Indians generally know several languages and have big advantage over mono-linguistic culture in terms of ability to learn new language.3. India is pluralistic society with various ethnic, religious and social groups which givesIndians an awareness and insight into other belief systems, cultures and values. Thissensitivity is useful while interacting with ever shrinking world, populated by manyunfamiliar cultures.4. India is the largest democracy of the world where citizens enjoy freedom ofexpression.Backdrops1. In India, most educated people speak reasonably good English. However IndianEnglish tends to be archaic and remnant of British Raj. It has failed to change withtimes.2. New generation of Indians are growing up on Internet chats and messages. Thesepeculiar brands of English that may help to communicate with immediate friends butmany find it difficult to understand English of American colleagues.3. Knowledge of other International languages like Japanese, French or Spanish isabysmally poor.4. Pluralistic society has also given rise to tensions and irrational fears.5. Years of feudalism has brought many habits in Indian. Calling boss by ‘sir’ is verycommon in India, at times making Indians getting into unnecessary subordinate role.6. Sense of unlimited freedom sometimes results in lack of sense of responsibility. Useof unnecessary words and lack of cooperation can also be seen among Indians.IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS• Soft skills play a significant role in one’s success in life particularly in one’s career.They are important to succeed in the workplace and they are even more important inthe age of information and knowledge explosion. Soft skills help in highlycompetitive corporate world in standing out in a crowd of regular job seekers withordinary talent and skills. Socially acceptable profile and skills are needed to make agood employee. The job seekers are expected to have what employers call soft skills.• With ever changing impact of technology, management pays more attention to softskills. According to the recent survey, more valuable employee is the one who cangrow and learn as the business changes and grows.• Soft skills play an important part for the success of an organization. Organizations,particularly dealing with customers face-to-face, are generally more prosperous ifthey train their employees to use these skills. With the boom in outsourcing, manyprofessionals and subject experts are directly dealing with their clients on a regular
  • 6. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)6basis. Soft skills have become absolutely essential for the success of the organizationsand individuals.• Soft skills are as important as traditional hard skills to an employer regardless ofindustry or job type. It is essentially to be technically sound, but one should also havethe ability to convey the idea to the masses in the simplest possible manner.• Planning is necessary but execution is also equally important. And it takes soft skillsto execute any idea because it involves dealing with people directly.IMPORTANT TYPES OF SOFT SKILLSIn all there are 60 soft skills like Maths, Safety, Grammar, writing skills, followingrules, self direction, ability to measure, valuing education, wanting to do a good job, basicmanufacturing skills training, awareness of how business works, staying on job until it isfinished, ability to read and follow instructions, being drug free, good attendance, personalenergy, critical thinking skills, understanding what the world is about, commitment tocontinues training and learning, ability to relate to coworkers in a close environment,communications skills with public, fellow employees, supervisors and customers.Some important soft skills which are absolutely important for the work life can be:1. Interpersonal skills: These include the ability to lead, motivate and delegate. They areimportant at every level of organizational responsibility. Being the most technical personin the field is not always enough unless one has the ability to convince others that howthings are important and what the organization should do for it.2. Team Working: Change and innovation is the new mantra for survival and succeeding.Most of the organizations have their work as team based rather than individual based.Team building is one such area in which employee must be trained.3. Negotiation Skills: The success of negotiating lies in ability to achieve desired outcomesand yet maintain successful ongoing relationships with others. Influencing positivelyhelps in achieving more and building relationships based on openness, trust,understanding and mutual respect.4. Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively is indispensablerequirement for technical, engineering and IT processionals, as the nature of industriesmake them dependent upon shared knowledge. In most of the cases communication skillsare the deciding factor in matters of selection and promotion.5. Time Management: It is actually a myth that time can be managed. After all there areonly 24 hours in a day. Time can’t be managed but the person should manage himself.As it is said ‘if you have to get a work done, give it to the busiest person.’ The busyperson sets up his priorities and ends up doing many tasks which an ordinary personfinds difficult to complete in a given time. The great leaders from all spheres of lifecould do many things in spite of their busy schedule.6. Stress Management: The demands of life are becoming ever increasing which aremaking increasing number of people cope with stress. The ability to cope with stressvaries from individual to individual. But the fact is that work and stress go hand in hand.Everybody experiences pressure. Success in a job depends on ability to handle workpressures.
  • 7. International Journal of Management (IJM), ISSN 0976 – 6502(Print), ISSN 0976 -6510(Online), Volume 4, Issue 3, May- June (2013)7CONCLUSIONAlthough traditional hard skills are important, importance of soft skills is growing inthis area of knowledge explosion. Soft skills are not taught the way hard skills but one cangain expertise with practice. Having soft skills is no more a choice but has become imperativein order to prove one’s metal in ever rising competition.REFERENCES1. http://bemycareercoach.com/1704/soft-skills/hard-skills-soft-skills.html2. http://www.answers.com/topic/soft-skills3. Soft Skills: Dr.K.Alex4. The ACE of Soft Skills: Gopalaswamy Ramesh, Madevan Ramesh5. M. Radhakrishnan and Dr. S. Sudha, “An Overview of Employability Skills Required forEngineering College Leavers”, International Journal of Management (IJM), Volume 3, Issue1, 2012, pp. 231 - 236, ISSN Print: 0976-6502, ISSN Online: 0976-65106. Dr. R.Prabu and Dr. K.Sridhar, “Information and Communication Technology SkillsAmong the Colleges Librarians Affiliated to Bharathidasan University: A Study”,International Journal of Library and Information Science (IJLIS), Volume 1, Issue 2, 2012,pp. 25 - 33, ISSN Print: 2277 – 3533, ISSN Online: 2277 – 35847. Dr.Amarja Satish Nargunde, “Measures for Improving Teachers’ Motivation in TechnicalEducation Field”, International Journal of Marketing & Human Resource Management(IJMHRM), Volume 4, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 40 - 44, ISSN Print: 0976 – 6421, ISSN Online:0976- 643X.

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