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ARTICLE : Soft Skills Development: An Integral Component of Human Resources Development
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 04:48

Soft Skills Development: An Integral Component of Human Resources Development

Come summer and we see a rush of summer schools coming up even in the smaller towns in India. These schools offer short term training to school and college students in everything from acupuncture to horticulture!

One of the main ingredients of the courses provided by such courses is what is referred to generally as “soft skills”. The reason for this is not hard to find out.

The present job scenario in the country places a great demand for value added skills. This is true as much in the case of technical subjects like engineering and scientific subjects like medicine as in the case of humanities subjects like languages or subjects like sociology or history.

Shri B S Warrier, one of the foremost career consultants in South India says that skill of communication is one of the prime movers of value addition as far as the job market is concerned. He also points out that whatever be the job or career one chooses, there will come a point where the successful completion of the responsibilities imposed upon you will necessitate good communication skills.

From another related point of view, the development of communication is part of a larger set of skills known as soft skills set. It includes the behavior of the individual in a social set up, his body language, way of dressing, attitude towards work, willingness to take on responsibility etc.

Soft Skills Set

Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person's EQ (Emotional Quotient) - the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills that form an important element of the occupational requirements of a job as well as many other activities.

Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual's interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person's skills and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person's ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.

A person's soft skill set is an important part of their individual contribution to the success of an organization. Particularly those organizations dealing with customers face-to-face are generally more successful, if they train their staff to use these skills. Screening or training for personal habits or traits such as dependability and conscientiousness can yield significant return on investment for an organization. For this reason, soft skills are increasingly sought out by employers in addition to standard qualifications.

The importance of soft skills is best understood from the following review made by the World Sociology Association Study Group on Interpersonal Skills. The report of the Association points out that in a number of professions, soft skills may be more important over the long term than occupational skills. The legal profession is one example where the ability to deal with people effectively and politely, more than their mere occupational skills, can determine the professional success of a lawyer.

Soft Skills are also known as Interpersonal Skills. In this sense they include proficiencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and selling skills etc.

Human Resources Development in Government

Various reports have been submitted to the Government of India that stresses on the vital nature of the Soft Skill component of general and technical education. Accordingly, the Planning Commission in its authoritative report submitted in 2009 has pointed out that Soft Skills development should be a part and parcel of every professional course – be they at the degree level or the diploma level. Thus soft skills set development is slowly becoming an integral part of technical courses at ITIs, polytechnics as well as regular engineering colleges.

Experiment in Madurai

In one experiment that is being carried on in Madurai, a set of government schools are given special help by the Central and State governments to impart soft skills development right from sixth standard onwards. The rationale for this programme, according to the Tamilnadu wing of the Council of Indian Industries (CII), which has also associated with the programme, is that though there were language labs in the schools for learning communication skills, there was further need to strengthen them. A study by the Government of India as well as by the CII has pointed out that many BPOs (Back Office Processing institutions) reject candidates because they cannot speak English well and because their interpersonal skills are not good. One of the aims of the project is to see the introduction of soft skills in the school curriculum will make any change in this scenario.

The module includes basic skills in self-management, communication, team dynamics, emotional intelligence, health and hygiene, values in daily life, laws of the land, etiquette and other skills.

Summer Institute in Spoken English

Another recent development in this regard is the Summer Institute Programme launched by the Institute of Spoken English of the Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai.

Since proficiency in Spoken English offers significant value addition for the students as they enter the job market, the four week intensive course has been structured so that the students can get practical experience in real life situations.

Dr S Chelliah, Director of the Institute of Spoken English has said that the course is basically intended to improve the general proficiency in Spoken English. The classes will be conducted by language experts using the most modern teaching strategies.

Rajesh, who comes from Vadipatti near Madurai says that the new, practice oriented approach at the Institute has helped him overcome the initial diffidence in speaking out. Ramya, fromTirupparakundram says that the classes have made her more confident in dealing with many foreign tourists with whom she has to deal at the handicrafts emporium where she is working.