Importance of Soft Skills for an Employee and for the Organization

SIES Journal of Management, April - August 2009, Vol.6(1): 18-22
Importance of Soft Skills for an Employee and
for the Organization
Sandeep Bhanot
Prof. Sandeep Bhanot is a faculty of Management Studies, SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai.
He specializes in the field of statistics and quantitative methods. sandeep@siescoms.edu
Abstract:
The business scenario is becoming more
and more competitive and it is difficult to
survive without soft skills. More and more
people are getting equipped with traditional
degrees and certificates and one important
point which differentiates raw talent from
skilled talent is soft skills i.e. the presence
or absence of them. What distinguishes
a person at the workplace is how he/she
applies talent in day-to-day activities,
achieving the organizational goals. An
employee with good soft skills will get
preference over another in recruitment if
both have similar educational qualifications
and experience.
Introduction:
Many people ask the question: Is there any
sure-shot formula or mantra for success?
But there is really no definite answer for
this. Does the magic prescription lie in a
company’s band of talented people or in
the company’s innovative products? Or is
it something else that is missing from the
equation for success?
An increasing number of companies are
recognizing the fact that in order to get
some competitive advantage, they will
have to make sure that their people know
how to handle themselves at work and how
to relate to their customers outside their
organization and with their peers inside.
From showing empathy and optimism and
self awareness to knowing what is going on
around them, there are some competencies
that make up an integral part of a progressive
organization. These and more fall under the
umbrella of soft skills.
Soft Skills:
Soft skills are crucial not just for a person’s
growth but also that of the company’s.
Otherwise, how could you explain the
differential growth curves of two people with
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Importance of Soft Skills for an Employee and for the Organization
the same qualifications working for the same
company, yet one is very successful and the
other only moderately so? For example, you
must have seen two shopkeepers selling the
same product. But one of them is able to do a
better business than the other because of the
dignified way he invites his customers, gives
them respect, listens to them and caters to
their requirements while the other shopkeeper
tells his customers that if they don’t find his
goods any good, they can move ahead. It
matters a lot what you say from your heart
than what you say with your mouth. Another
example can be taken of two doctors, of
which one of them is more qualified but does
not treat patients with compassion while the
other doctor, though less qualified is more
humane and considerate towards his/her
patients. You will find that there will be
more patients in the second doctor’s clinic
than in the first one.
The answer lies in their different hold over
their soft skills. In a constantly changing
and challenging work environment, to gain
a competitive advantage, employees need
to know how to handle themselves at work
and how to relate with their customers and
peers. These skills are vital not only for a
front-office job, say as a receptionist, who
is expected to wear a smile and be polite
at all times, but also in the back-office
environment, as well. After all, front-office
jobs are more people-centric and they
require you to be at your best always—even
in terms of your appearance.
It always helps if you are well-groomed
and project a positive image to the world.
In the service industry, in particular, where
the back-office team has to cater to all types
of customers, a person always has to be at
SIES Journal of Management, September 2009, Vol. 6(1)
his/her best. In an industry where you are
involved with relocating people, including
foreigners, you just cannot afford to lose
your cool. Administration officers at help
desks are virtually swamped by calls from
aggrieved customers, requesting a new
telephone connection or complaining about
their malfunctioning generators or even
gyms that charge exorbitant fees. The team
of officers has to learn to be patient with such
customers. There are no two ways about it.
Significance of Soft Skills :
The importance of soft skills can also be
gauged from the following incident, wherein
an HR manager refused to take a person
on board because he was impolite on the
phone. Even while this person was making
inquiries about one of the job postings, it
became apparent that he had little interest in
the job. He had preconceived notions about
employers being bad and short-sighted and
the HR manager got completely put off by
his caustic remarks and verbal tirade. In his
mind, he was convinced he would never
call this man for an interview as his ‘soft
skills’ needed a lot of polish.
These soft skills should be inculcated in an
individual right from childhood. At home,
the child should be taught how to behave in
a decent way with not just his/her parents,
siblings and elders but also with the
people around like neighbours and friends.
Children should be made aware of their
responsibilities towards their society. Here
the role of the school is very important.
Qualities of team work, empathizing with
others, working together to achieve a goal
etc. should be developed and efforts for
overall development of personality of the
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Sandeep Bhanot
individual should be made. Even while
grading of the students, emphasis should be
given to development of soft skills.
Business and Soft Skills :
In business, your management theories
alone will not help you to increase your
reach to your customers or increase your
market share. They will not be adequate
to deal with a difficult situation or fix an
unexpected problem. Yet you get maximum
accolades when you deal with someone
with a soft touch than with your extensive
knowledge about a particular subject.
While most American companies invest at
least one to two per cent of their budget on
soft-skills training, in India the spending is
much lower at 0.5 to one per cent. Yet it has
been estimated that the soft-skills training
is a Rs. 800 crore market in India and
ancillary support services like management
videos are worth Rs. 340 crore. This sort of
training can be built into vocational training,
management case studies, mentor talk,
whatever, but it does need to be incorporated.
Some managers believe that companies
should plough back at least 10 per cent
of their profits into soft-skills training. At
Pipal Research, a Chicago-based company
engaged in research resources, the focus is
primarily on “professional development and
mentoring”. When analysts start at Pipal,
they are assigned a mentor who tracks their
overall professional development. Later, the
HR manager uses the mentor’s observations,
other research managers’ feedback to create
a development agenda for the analyst and
the system has worked well.
Thus, while an employee’s domain
knowledge and job experience are relevant to
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career growth, no less important are the soft
skills. It is these soft skills that will finally
make the difference between an effective and
an ineffective employee / organization.
Important Soft Skills :
We all know that the business scenario is
becoming more and more competitive and
it is difficult to survive without soft skills.
More and more people are getting equipped
with traditional degrees and certificates and
one important point which differentiates
raw talent from skilled talent is soft skills
i.e. the presence or absence of them. What
distinguishes a person at the workplace is
how he/she applies talent in day-to-day
activities, achieving the organizational
goals. The important soft skills are leadership
skills, time management, presentation skills,
communication skills, etiquette, telephone
speaking skills, business writing skills etc.
Soft skills represent a combination of skills
that makes us user-friendly to the context
under consideration. The context could be a
part of our job or outside it. These are skills
which we already have, but possibly need
to enhance them a bit. For instance, we
have been communicating since we started
speaking and writing, but we need to know
how communication can be used to make a
difference in our organization. Similarly, we
have been told by our parents and teachers
about the importance of managing time
properly, which are nothing but prioritizing
one’s tasks and optimizing performance.
Personality Skills :
Personality skills are those that define
an individual’s personality. Personality
is the sum total of one’s physical, social,
Importance of Soft Skills for an Employee and for the Organization
emotional and spiritual characteristics
that identify a person. It includes one’s
attitudes, beliefs, values and character.
These are the most difficult ones to be
trained in as belief systems and habits are
acquired over a life time. Knowledge skills
constitute knowledge in action, as applied
to your organization or to any life situation.
They include knowledge, competence and
technical know-how. These can be learnt in
classrooms, applied to real life situations
and also learnt from the experience of one’s
seniors and colleagues. Soft skills already
exist in all of us. It is only that we don’t
update them quite often. We don’t use
enough creativity in our lives to get things
done. Hard skills influence our decisions so
much that soft skills are not paid attention.
Soft Skills and Success :
A professionally qualified person cannot
fit into an organization without soft skills
in the same way that we cannot run MS
Office without the operating system loaded
on the computer. People are able to do their
jobs effectively only because of soft skills.
Without soft skills, there are very little
chances of achieving success even with the
best academic qualifications. What we learn
in the classroom is hard skills which have to
be complemented by soft skills in order to
take us ahead. The business world does not
operate in ideal conditions. To take care of
such difficult and uncertain situations, we
require soft skills also. Today, business is not
just about planning and organizing alone. To
take the business ahead effectively, we need
to identify innovative solutions which are
not taught to us in classrooms. Executives
need to move out from a compartmentalized
thinking which pertains to only their domain
SIES Journal of Management, September 2009, Vol. 6(1)
or specialization. In the real world, there
is dissolution of traditional boundaries.
Soft skills help us to look beyond these
boundaries and look at the bigger picture.
Knowledge skills can help you to start your
career but soft skills will help you to sustain
the growth. Soft skills are what make the
difference between an ordinary employee
and a successful employee.
You need to identify what skills you need
to develop and then look at appropriate
training sessions for the same. Before
embarking on this route, you need to make
some points very clear in your mind:
(i) You need to be clear about the outcome
or result you want to achieve. Your
expectations should be realistic. You
can improve on your communication
skills but you cannot become a
powerful communicator overnight
by going through a two day training
session. These training programs
make us aware of our shortcomings
and then we need to work on them on a
continuous basis in order to improve.
(ii) You need to be clear about what you
want to learn. Going through a training
session just because your company
is sponsoring it will not serve your
purpose. Take up something which
suits your requirements.
(iii) It is important to keep an open mind
and a learner’s attitude rather than
a ‘know all’ attitude otherwise the
chance of learning anything new is
rare.
(iv) Once you have learned something in
a training session, it is important to
practice it. Otherwise you will not feel
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Sandeep Bhanot
the impact and will forget it in due
course of time.
Conclusion :
We have seen how important soft skills
are for the growth and development of
any individual. Today, all companies are
realizing the importance of soft skills
for their employees and hence organize
special training programs so that they can
update themselves. They are investing
time and money so that their employees
can realize their full potential by looking
at things creatively, which not only leads
to their overall development but also the
sustained development of the organization.
Such an organization becomes a proactive
organization which can take up the day to
day challenges head on.
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