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Soft Skills: The New Skilling Paradigm

Soft skills are at the heart of any successful business and successful career.

By Sunil Dahiya

Soft skills are a combination of people and social skills encompassing personality traits and behaviours as against the hard skills which are occupational in nature. Hence, these are intangible and difficult to quantify, unlike the hard skills that are proven and measurable. The soft skills constitute interpersonal skills, communication skills, listening skills, time management, teamwork, positive thinking, resilience, motivation, creativity, emotional intelligence and many other such non-technical traits that provide a significant talent edge to organisations across the globe.

Need for Soft Skills  

In a dynamic world where job roles are changing rapidly, soft skills will be one of the few constants. Almost every employer I’ve spoken to agrees that soft skills are at the core of their people strategy. Due to such continuous and strong feedback of employers from almost all sectors, the need for soft skill has occupied the centre-stage in the skilling ecosystem. Development of soft skills and self-confidence in prospective and current employees has become a major concern for employers all over the world.

The new-age business world and work-place is interpersonal, and organizations and leaders agree that a great deal of sophistication in communication skills, collaborating framework, and social behaviour will provide a cutting-edge differentiator between the good and the great.

Which Soft Skills are Important? 

It is a difficult task to create a shortlist of important soft skills as the portfolio of soft skills has a wide range. So, we decided to dig deep in a segment which can give most accurate feedback on this issue, i.e. the employers. Wadhwani Foundation recently launched a survey of more than 1100 employers in eight Indian cities and across industry sectors. Basis the response from employers, it became clear that the below eight soft skills are predominant to the current requirements of the industry.

  • Communication with impact
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Digital & financial literacy
  • Attitudes and Behaviours
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Problem Solving
  • Customer-centricity

The current pandemic situation has increased the criticality of a few more soft skills like creative thinking, self-learning capability and handling mental stress.

Training on Soft Skills 

Because soft skills are loosely defined, their development is a challenging process as compared to the classical hard skills. It entails a high-level of interactivity on an ongoing basis, and acceptance of behavioural feedback and lessons learnt from the same.

Various pedagogy and methodology models are being deployed for training in this space with tools like sharing scenario-based situations, role plays, videos, high order thinking, discussions etc. giving the learner various situations to handle and assimilate. The training also acknowledges that many trainees are foraying in the job market for the first time, and hence to teach them the importance of being on time, organizing their responsibilities, and dealing with people of all ages and from all walks of life, becomes paramount.

Soft skills training in India is as critical as it is to the developed economies. Indian corporate leaders acknowledge that most young Indians lack the balance of academic grades and soft skills such as critical thinking and creativity, which are important to emerging job opportunities. This life-skills gap isn’t confined to India and is holding back the business growth and academic research everywhere.

Lack of soft skill trainers and infrastructure has contributed to less effective adoption of this important training in India. Also, the challenges of soft skills training are accentuated as the parameters being addressed like personal development and personal transformation are qualitative and attitudinal in nature.

Suggested Solutions  

Government policymakers, teachers and parents agree that academic subjects and soft skills development must be interwoven to ensure a more enriching school experience while ensuring that students are creative, adaptable and resilient in their future studies and work.

As Industry and academia work together in this direction, new policies should add life skills or soft skills as a mandatory part of each grade in school and also provide for the required trainers and infrastructure. Teachers must become facilitators using technology-enabled solutions as aides to develop the skills among students. Institutions providing technical diplomas and degrees must evaluate soft skill training as a mandatory part of learning with equal weightage as a domain. Digital solutions are emerging for facilitated learning in this space, and hence this needs to be leveraged to open doors for ‘scale training’ across the ecosystem of academia and Industry.

Source: BW Business World