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What are Soft Skills
At the most fundamental level, a skill is aptly described as an ability to perform a particular task well. As Matteson, Anderson, and Boyden (2016) provide, a fitting definition for the term skill is having access to specific processes, sequences of behavior, or knowledge that allows for distinctive performance outcomes. This implies that a skill is something appertaining to action (Clarke, 2016). When it comes to soft skills, there are unique elements about them. Soft skills have a lot to do with an individual’s attitudes, dispositions, beliefs, and values (Matteson, Anderson & Boyden, 2016). This means that soft skills have a significant bearing on the standard with which a worker performs or judges the performance of specific actions towards the attainment of identifiable objectives (Davidson, 2016). One can therefore put across the definition of soft skills as interpersonal aptitudes and character traits that influence a person’s capacities to interact and work with others in a given situation towards the achievement of particular goals (Clarke, 2016). This gives the implication that soft skills serve to complement technical skills making a person with both a valuable asset.
Sets and significance of Soft Skills
Soft skills serve to shape the personality of a person. It is imperative that each worker acquires them regardless of job expertise or background (Davidson, 2016). Soft skills are a potent indicator of an individual’s job performance abilities just as is the case with conventional professional qualifications (Claxton, Costa, & Kallick, 2016). A recent research study indicated that 15% of the reason a person is able to attain employment, retain it, and witness career advancement closely associates with technical knowledge and skills levels (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). This implies that an 85% chance of successful employment outcomes in the long, short, and medium terms is closely linked with an individual’s strengths in soft skills (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). The significance of soft skills can therefore not be undermined.
Soft skills incorporate facets of non-academic skills. These include team work, lifelong learning and information skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills, communication skills, leadership skills, entrepreneurship, as well as ethics and professional moral skills.
Team Work: This is a skill that encompasses all of one’s abilities that facilitate cooperation as well as collaboration in the workplace (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). Common workplace environments involve staffs from diverse cultural backgrounds and social settings. In an effort to generate sustainable working relationships with others, it is vital for one to mindful of other’s unique attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). This is especially the case within teams as today’s leader will inadvertently have to become tomorrow’s group member since roles vary with every co-occurring workplace situation.
Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills: This entails how a worker applies knowledge in an analytical, critical, innovative, and creative way (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). Vital elements involve an individual’s capacity to pinpoint complex situations and analyze them through making justifiable evaluations. It also involves the capability of enhancing and expanding one’s thinking skills towards providing potent solutions via alternative ideas.
Communication Skills: This is the ability to share one’s thoughts with confidence and clarity verbally and in written form (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). It also implies the capacity to be an active listener towards ensuring a necessary response is given out. In the modern workplace, it also entails the confident application of technology to make presentations within the organization.
Information management and Lifelong Learning: Independent and self regulated learning ensures that one is receptive to fresh ideas as well as keeping an inquisitive mind (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). This involves having the skills to find pertinent information from a variety of sources and being able to efficiently manage acquired knowledge.
Leadership Skills: It entails the capacity to lead in diverse workplace activities (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). Knowledge appertaining to fundamental leadership theories is important. It empowers one understand roles as a follower and as a leader towards effectively carrying out each part.
Ethics and Professional Moral Skills: This enables a worker to ascribe to high moral standards relative to their professional practice (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). It also entails having a good understanding of the impact social and cultural factors as well as the economic environment have on their professional dispensations (Claxton, Costa, & Kallick, 2016). Ethics as a skill ensures decisions are made with a sense of good responsibility towards the larger society.
Entrepreneurship Skills: This entails a person having the capacity to venture into various work related opportunities while displaying a high degree of risk awareness (Ngang, Hashim, & Yunus, 2015). It also involves a professional entering into available business opportunities that may lead to successful self-employment.
Mobilizing for Innovation and Change: Involves the capacity to conceptualize needed change prior to initiating and innovatively attaining the set change outcomes (Matteson, Anderson, & Boyden, 2016).
Relationship Building: This involves a positive social influence in the workplace relative to coordination, trust, cooperation, negotiations, and conflict resolution (Matteson, Anderson, & Boyden, 2016).
Adaptability: This is closely related to flexibility. This involves the willingness to embrace and go along with proposed changes in a dynamic and fast paced workplace setting.
Reasons Why Soft Skills are missing
There are various reasons why soft skills are meeting amongst numerous workers today. However, the most potent reason is that they are not considered part of the knowledge and skills that should be passed down from teachers to their students in the course of learning. Too much emphasis on passing exams may result in students who cannot learn from failure. Parents, teachers, as well as employers should allow learners and workers to fail and learn from their failures as a way to progressively hone soft skills.
Clarke, M. (2016). Addressing the soft skills crisis. Strategic HR Review, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 137-139. https://doi.org/10.1108/SHR-03-2016-0026
Claxton, G., Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2016). Hard thinking about soft skills. Educational leadership.
Davidson, K. (2016). Employers find ‘soft skills’ like critical thinking in short supply. The Wall Street Journal, 30.
Matteson, M. L., Anderson, L., & Boyden, C. (2016). “Soft Skills”: A Phrase in Search of Meaning. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(1), 71–88. doi:10.1353/pla.2016.0009
Ngang, T. K., Hashim, N. H., & Yunus, H. M. (2015). Novice Teacher Perceptions of the Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 177, 284-288.