Soft Skills Importance in Organisations
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1 Introduction & Background
Business concerns with people. It's about communication, coordination and relationship. Although business success is based upon logical acts and thoughts, the human element cannot be ignored (Armstrong, 2006). That's why strong soft skills are vitally important. Organisations and businesses are established with one thing in mind that is to earn revenue for their stakeholders. Revenue is earned by selling products or providing services to its customers and clients. Businesses flourish because they have products or services to sell which their customers buy in return for profits. To compete or to survive in the competitive business environment, it's critical for any organization to satisfy the customer needs. Service is often considered an important aspect of satisfaction of customer as well as a significant contribution. Customer satisfaction is an important aspect for business profitability (Armstrong, 2006). It is the satisfaction of the customers that keep them loyal and any good service provided by the organisation help it to retain customers that in turn ends in high profitability. Increased competition and customer expectations have forced the companies to frequently provide good customer value and service. This has pressurised the businesses to focus more on customer satisfaction (Gerson, 1993).
According to Phillips (1991), customer service is the base for a flourishing business and training is the service's cornerstone. Quality product with just price attracts customers but it is not enough. Organisations came to realize that consumers' decision to buy this product also depends upon the service or treatment that he/she has received. The importance of customer satisfaction is also a key element in service only industry. That's why a strong emphasis has been put on soft skills and organisations lay a great importance for employees to acquire soft skills specially the ones who deal with customers. With the growing significance on quickly intensifying service sector; organisations recognized the soft skills' importance and they are paying special attention to the softer side of their interaction with consumers. Training of employees especially in soft skills is vital for any organisation and it helps in overall employee improvement as well as development. The need and value for soft skills development for employees has always been accepted by many organisations (Guirdham, 1999). Training also contributes towards development of employees and and plays an important role in their satisfaction. It helps to acquire new skills or polish the existing ones (Green, 2001). Organisational structures are influenced by customer oriented market and constantly changing environment that is leading the organisations to rely on soft skills training for employees. Organisation structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees. It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities. Culture of an organization also plays an important part in assessing the needs and requirements for training and development. It also puts a positive pressure on organizational behavior and influences it. It also helps in producing high level of business performance. Culture is what makes an organisation unique and that differentiate it from other organizations. The stronger the culture is, the more effective the organization.
Training equips organization with flexibility and durability required for growth and survival. Environmental pressures forces an organisation towards change. Training provides adaptability to change and answer to the challenge on how to adjust to change (Ulrich, 1998). Change and training is worthless if employees are not involved properly. Employees are regarded the most valued assets especially which are skilled in soft skills, as the nature of business changes. When organizational change occurs, major alteration and modifications in the policy of the management need to be reflected in the training theory. It is very essential for any organization to realize its environment's dynamics and adjust to the changing requirements the internal or external environment (Bhattacharyya, 2007). Leadership is necessary for creating change and can produce orderly change. Leaders are expected to focus on taking the organization forward. Leadership in today's environment is a tough business. Organizational leaders face a number of significant challenges as their jobs and the world around them become increasingly complex (Murphy and Riggio, 2003). In business, a rapidly shifting economic environment, changing demands of customers and increasing market competition has become normal. To compete, business leaders must continuously increase their performance by any measure.
Organisations should work to assure that people in the company work flexibly in the response to change. Trained employees will respond positively to the change and employees that are skilled with both hard and soft skills can work more effectively in achieving organisational overall objectives. Studies have found a relationship between organisation's productivity and employee satisfaction and also between satisfaction of employees and customers (Allen and Wilburn,). Satisfied employees can generate satisfied customers. Valued and satisfied employees make more contributions to the organization's performance. They are more productive and work more effectively. If they are satisfied with their job and working conditions, they will serve the customer needs more carefully and efficiently.
To get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered; an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience. Customer satisfaction measurement is about how customer perceives an organization's performance. Measuring customer satisfaction helps in finding out customer needs and determining customers' problems. It also assists in improving product and quality of service that in turn leads to more satisfaction of customers. As with customer satisfaction measurement, training evaluation is equally important. Training evaluation is a way to gather information by which the organizations make decisions about training actions (Armstrong, 2008). Businesses apply evaluation of performance appraisal to calculate work performance and effectiveness of an employee, which can help in defining and developing training needs for the organisations.
1.2 Study Purpose
The main idea of this dissertation is to investigate the soft skills importance for organisations working in the constantly changing customer oriented market. The significance of soft skills training for customer focused organisations was never felt before. Growing economical environment and customers' high expectations forced the organizations to recognise the need of soft skills and soft skills training for employees (Muir, 2004). The other reasons for writing this research paper include examining companies' relations with employees and consumers and its effect on satisfaction level of customers. The research focuses on employee's soft skills development relating to changing nature of organisation culture. Effects of internal and external environmental factors on organisations functions and policies are also discussed. This paper also examined and argued on roles and responsibilities of HR professionals like HR managers for planning and developing HR strategies and policies. Aspects of leadership are considered in details, like leading through change, motivating in employee relations and influencing during training and development.
The writer has evaluated and related literature review with case-studies of Mobilezone Ltd and United Mobiles Ltd and concluded on the training and developing soft skills benefits and subsequent effects on employee and customer satisfaction. The research paper has analyzed critically on the training of soft skills and its impact on its staff and consumers. In the end the researcher has assessed customer satisfaction and evaluated training by use of research methodologies. The writer has tried to take several authors' views on above mentioned subjects. Authors' ideas and theories are not only mentioned but debated. The researcher provided point of view of different writers and counter arguments of some scholars on related.
1.3 Company's Overview
The organisations selected for this dissertation are in the growing stages with different structures, cultures, and management and leadership styles. Their approaches towards customer satisfaction by training employees in soft skills differ from one another. Both companies are leading mobile phone sellers and service providers in Delhi region of India. The names of the companies are Mobilezone Ltd and United Mobiles Ltd. Both the companies are new to this field. They started their business and launched their operations with the growing demand for telecommunication sector in India.
1.3.1 Mobilezone Ltd
Mobile Zone was established in 2002 with the vision of bringing top mobile brands, latest products, and to provide high quality services. It provides quality products of top mobile phone brands in India. Unlike its competitors, it planned its entry with a thorough and careful market research and its employees were well trained before the business actually started. In just 7 years of its existence, it gained a good market share and enjoys a commanding position in mobile phone market in Capital region. With main office in the heart of the city, it has presence in many other areas of Delhi through sales and service centres. Apart from providing services face to face it deals with customer problems and queries via call centre. It employees highly qualified and trained sales and service staff. There are total of 150 employees in the main office and service centres.
1.3.2 United Mobiles Ltd
United Mobiles Ltd has also started their business in 2002 just a moth prior to its competitor. In contrast to its competitor, it was fairly new to this business and its staff had little experience in this business field. It also enjoys a market share in the area and earns good profits. Just like its competitors it has sales and service centres in different parts of the city. Its call centre is located in the main office. It employees around 100 staff at main office and service centres (excluding cleaning and maintenance jobs).
1.4 Selection of Topic
Research was undertaken before deciding which topic area to select. After initial research on wide range of topics, discussions of ideas with colleagues and friends, browsing internet and libraries, exploring different dissertation of previous years and finally weighing opinions and careful thinking; the researcher narrowed down the topic and selected this specific research. The main motive for selecting the topic was that this covered a lot of subjects within, and extensive data material was available from different sources. The other reasons include the researcher's own personal experience in the field and work experience in one of the companies; and the available ease for carrying out data collection research.
1.5 Project paper usefulness
The research project can be useful for reference purposes for later projects and studies by the students. This research was conducted with the management help, so this study can also be useful for comparing companies' results with its updated analysis. The companies can use it as a guideline to take improvement measures and modifications. The theory and research of this paper can also be of some assistance for companies and other researcher alike.
1.6 Aim and objectives
Aim: To study and examine the importance of training soft skills in organisations in terms of customer satisfaction.
- Following are the research objectives:
- Examine and analyze the existing literature on employee training and development with specific focus on soft skills and customer satisfaction. Summarize the main subject matter of the findings and provide recommendations to the company on the conclusion.
- Determine the extent employees' soft skills can be improved by training; and the degree of influence of skilled employees on the tendency of customers.
- Appreciate the contribution of internal and external factors towards skills training and development.
- Evaluate training and measure employee and customer satisfaction using available research methods.
1.7 Layout of research paper
Chapter 1 is research paper introduction. The background and overview of the research undertaken, has been given by the writer. Research purpose, objectives, usefulness of the research paper, selection of topic and company's overview has been proposed.
Chapter 2 encompasses the review of literature that includes the body of discussion. This section has further been divided into parts which are related and relevant. Research of soft skills, training and development, change, organisation's structure and culture, HR professionals and leaders' roles and responsibilities, employee relations and customer satisfaction; has been put forward and discussed and explained in details. This section has been critically analyzed, taking into account different perspectives. Different scholars and writer's work has been taken into account, and comments and arguments were put forward by the researcher.
Chapter 3 consists of review of methodology. Different research methods which could have been useful are discussed and weighed. Selection of appropriate methods and reasons for selection and rejection of research methods are presented in summary. Arguments and benefits for selected methods are also given. Sampling, tools of research, designs, models and other related techniques are also explained in this section.
Chapter 4 comprises data analysis that the researcher collected and its significance in terms of reaching the explicit conclusions. Data gathered from interviews, questionnaires and other sources is analysed critically analysed. All the results are presented graphically. Comparison o results are also made in this section.
Chapter 5 is summary, conclusions and recommendations. All the data in first 4 chapters has been summarised and concluded in this chapter, drawing together the threads of research project and the main things found out in data collection. Recommendations has been proposed after taking into consideration all the summarised research that gives detailed insight into the related research criteria. The researcher has also highlighted the areas the companies can focus in future to improve its business performance.
2 Literature Review:
Organisations survive, grow and earn profits by meeting the needs and requirement of customers. To survive in the ever changing environment, it is critical for any organisation to satisfy the needs of the customers (Mullins, 2007). Consumers' decision to buy this product also depends upon the service or treatment provided by the company. That's why companies put a great emphasis on its employees training of skills as well as continuous development over the years; especially for the ones which provide service directly or interact with customers often. Organisations have started emphasising on soft skills importance for services and they are laying a great importance for employees to acquire soft skills. Training of employees in soft skills is vital for any organisation as it aid in employee development (Guirdham, 1999).
Customer oriented market and changing environment has influence on the organization structure that leads to increased reliance on skills development. Organisation structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees (Armstrong, 2008). It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities. Organisational structures are influenced by customer oriented market and constantly changing environment that is leading to more dependence on soft skills training for employees. Culture of an organization also plays an important part in assessing the needs and requirements for training and development. It also puts a positive pressure on organizational behavior and influences it. It also helps in producing high level of business performance. Change and training is worthless if employees are not involved properly (Armstrong, 2008). Employees are regarded the most valued assets especially which are skilled in soft skills, as the business nature organization itself changes. The role of managers and leaders are very important in development of employees. Leadership is necessary for creating change and can produce orderly change. Leaders are expected to focus on taking the organization forward. To get an accurate picture of the service quality delivered; an organisation measure customer satisfaction and experience (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Training is also evaluated to measure the employee work performance and effectiveness (Beardwell et al. 2007).
2.2. Training and Development
Armsrtong (2008) defines employee development as a process to prepare organization employees for future responsibilities related to job. This may include training (formal or informal, mentoring, education, coaching etc. Training and development of employees is a HRM activity. HRM is concerned with personnel management and staff development in a company and is normally carried out by HR professionals e.g. HR managers (Armstrong, 2006). The nature of work HR carries out differs from one business to another and is effected by size and structure of the company. Talented pools of workers are always required by an organisation to compete successfully in today's highly competitive market (Bratton and Gold, 2001). Company can achieve and maintain this competitive advantage by regularly upgrading the workforce skills. Training and development is a never ending challenge that a company must address (Wilson, 2006). The development of employee skills is one of the most imperative tasks in which an organisation can engage (Molander and Winterton, 2006). Effective training is paramount for survival and growth of a business. Training is not just about developing people but serving them to become more positive and capable in their jobs as well confident in their lives. The field of training is a fast growing sector of human life and has come of age as a profession. There are many motives for training and developing employees. It can be started for a variety of reasons for employees e.g. to facilitate an employee to be qualified for a planned change. It can be carried out as part of an employee's professional development program or performance improvement (Rae, 1999). The training need has always been present in every walk of life and today the need is so much greater. There could be any reason but important are probably: the pace at which change is happening in every field of business life, and the employers' attitude and the attitude of the individuals (Pont, 2003). Training is not only essential to create skilled force but also needed to maintain a high level of skills required by the constantly changing work environment and to equip employees to meet future demands (Stewart, 2996) (Pont, 2003). HR professionals do recognise training and development of an employee is a process that is ongoing but it speed up in case of organisational, cultural or environmental change. This training process involves continuous adjustment to adapt which is achieved from improved skills and increased knowledge (Beardwell et al 2007). The new working system demands completely new approach of thinking and extensive training in new skills (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). The importance of training has long been recognized. The need for training is more prominent given today's business climate which affects the economy and society at large. The most simplistic definition of training is that it is an activity that changes people's behaviour.
Training is defined by Wilson (2006) as a planned process to modify employee knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour through learning to gain performance. Employee is trained to make sure that organization's current or future needs are met. Training can equip employees to do their jobs, perform their tasks and handle complex products and services. In Bramley's (2003) words, training involves learning and educating employee to do something so that the things are done differently. He and (Wilson, 1999) further explains that training process is planned to facilitate education to help employees develop into more effective and efficient in performing their duties and completing their work. According to the CIPD, training is expected to equip workers to help them become strategically unique, in addition to the provision of skills, attitudes and knowledge required to attain operational efficiency. The foundation for training remains the traditional training process system. This involves: 1. identifying the needs for training and development of the company; 2. Planning training or devising a learning plan; 3. Carrying out or delivering training and 4. Assessing and evaluating outcomes/results. A training-need-analysis is the first step in identifying the types of programs that will further organisation's goals, which helps to decide whether training is appropriate at all. The organisations have to assess why they need training. Is the current organisational deficiency that the training seeks to address really due to lack of skills and knowledge or some deeper problems? Frequently, organisations implement training program because a HR professional identifies an individual or business need (Smith and Mazin, 2004). Then plans are made on how to deliver the program and by which method.
Although the terms training and development are often linked, these address slightly different needs. Training focuses on learning the necessary skills and acquiring the knowledge required to perform the job. Training deals with design and delivery of knowledge to improve organization performance. Development focuses on the preparation needed for future jobs; it should be considered investment in the work force since its benefits are long term (Buhler, 2002). Training inclined towards focusing on short term results. Development may inadequately focus on working environment. It is very important for the business to review its training to a broader scenario (Bryans and Smith, 2000). According to Armstrong (2006), people are learning and will continue to do so throughout their career, whether taught formally or as an experience. Mullins (2007) observed that people learn within the organisation and in everyday life situations. Competition, technological advances and organizational development, all necessitate the creation of knowledge that leads to constant advancement. That directs oganizations to take more interest in employee development within evolving organization. Training is the main area of the HRM function of particular importance and relevant to the management effectiveness. There are not many scholars who argue in opposition to the importance of training as a foremost influence on the organization success. Leading writers have recognised the importance of training as fundamental for management (Bratton and Gold, 2003). Many believed that training employee development is a key factor of HRM within organization. Training as described by Keep (1989 cited by Wilkinson, 2006), is a litmus test against which management's characteristics practices can be measured. Other advantages of staff's training and development includes: increased employee morale, motivation and job satisfaction, increased efficiency and effectiveness, increased ability to adopt latest methods and technologies, enhanced company image, reduced employee turnover, risk management. The precise staff training at the right timing presents big payoffs for the employer in increased knowledge, productivity, contribution and loyalty (Web 3). Training let the organization to develop and promote its own business culture. It also permits organizations to become accustomed to changes in the working environment and can be used as a change agent (Wilkinson, 2006). Training can improve effectiveness of the organisation in fiercely competitive markets. Training assists in optimizing the development of human resource for employee to achieve the individual as well as organisational objectives (Benson, 2006). It increases the job skills and knowledge of employees and expands the horizons of their intellect and their personality. Training and development also aids in signifying the team spirit sense, team work and inter team relationship. It also helps the company to be effective in decision making and solving problem. It also assists in developing leadership skills, loyalty among employees, staff motivation, enhanced attitudes and other features that successful employees normally display (Armstrong, 2008) (Bratton and Gold, 2003) (Jenkins,2002) (Pont, 2003) (Price, 2007).
Of course, the basic and main goal of a business is to enhance its value and to increase its stakeholder's wealth. It requires effective and efficient use of limited resources available to the organization to achieve theses aims. Resource aavailability (human, physical and financial) are considered important inputs (Bacon & Haque, 2008). HR scholars agree that an organisation is only as good as persons working in it but opinions vary on how it translates into practice. Many organisations not only consider training as n chance for employees to learn something but also as an investment that would produce results for business. It also takes money and time to train staff (Bacon & Haque, 2008). With a supportive environment and a little encouragement and reinforcement, a business can accomplish the required result on a substantial investment in people. An organized approach is needed in evaluation of needs of training; otherwise organization may not be able to utilize valuable resources efficiently (Armstrong, 2006). Training matters for a company because of the established links between productivity and skills. Organisations allocate resources for training because of fear of skills shortage. Some scholars like Kallenberg & Moody (1994) recognize that investment in employee development result in higher returns in future. Employees are the essential and crucial resource. It's important for an organisation to optimize the employees' contribution to the organisation's goals and objectives in order to maintain effective performance. Adequate supply of technically and socially competent and proficient staff is only ensured by training and development. Training helps the staff to become capable for career advancement into specialist departments and management positions. Staff training can be on-the-job that is conducted at the trainee's workplace, and off-the-job which is carried out away from employee's work place (Mullins, 2007). Some employees are naturally gifted in talents while others work hard to gain but all can still benefit from learning new techniques. People usually receive a well to do on the job training in one form or another. Some people are good at finding their own paths and procuring the necessary resources and information, many persons learn best by following, observing and asking questions (Smith and Mazin, 2004).
Training is not always the answer to problems related to performance. Some training analysts (Rosner, 1999 cited by Smith and Mazin, 2004) believed that training could be a good investment or could be a waste of resources. It is in fact a waste of resources when the desired behaviour does not occur. That's why training and development doesn't succeed all the time to achieve desired results and in obtaining aims and objectives of the organisation. There can be many causes for the failure but most common are (Web 6): Training is often put into practice for the wrong reasons and seldom aligns to a business measure. If training program does not support the business goals then no improvement can be recorded. Training is thought to be a solution for a range of performance problems when training may not be concern at all. It also fails because it does not succeed to give direction and focus. Sometimes the solution proves too expensive for the desired outcomes. Individual's behaviour towards training also plays an important part; e.g. when training is believed just as an event than as enhancement of skills and abilities of the employees, it fails to generate business results. Other important reason for failure is lack of management support (Mullins, 2007). Employees will hardly ever implement new skills and knowledge without it in the workplace. Failure to include and credit other influences and processes apart from training that may have influenced the business outcomes may also be a good reason of failure. Some businesses invest little in training because they don't have enough funds. Other reason is the fear that individuals will leave and move to other companies at some later stage. Few organisations consider recruitment process sufficient and rely on the natural skills of employees rather than training (Harrison, 2005).
It is HR manager's role and responsibility to develop and implement training strategies and policies. He/she is also involved in people management activities like developing organization, recruitment and selection, talent management, learning and development, human resource planning, knowledge management, reward management, etc (Hyde et al. 2009). Depending on the business nature and size of the company, the HR managers not just have responsibility of training and developing employees but for performance management as well.Training processes take place in the context of internal and the external environment of the organization. Human Resource Managers need to realize the training and development's nature and process to be able to facilitate learning and development within the organisation (Watson, 2006). While providing training, the managers need to recognize the importance and effects organization structure and design because these describe tasks and responsibilities, roles and relationships, work and channels of communication (Mullins, 2007). Structure is clearly important for any organization, whatever its size. The aspects that determine how the company functions in relation to its eternal and external environment are its structure and the processes that operate within it. Structures are necessary to support the effort of training managers and trainee employees. It also makes possible the effective performance of key training activities (Hyde et al. 2009).
Human Resource Development (HRD) is a name which signifies the newest evolutionary phase in the long custom of training, educating and developing employees. It focuses on the principle of contributing to the success of individual, organisational and societal objectives. According to McLagan (1989 cited in Wilson, 2005) it is the incorporated use of training, career development and development of a company to improve organisational and individual value. HRD gives the business benefits assisting the ability to increase revenue. Companies need to develop a learning culture that responds quickly to the ever changing environment. HRD policies can help the organisation to obtain this objective (Nixon, 2004).
2.3. Soft Skills
There are two versions of HRM as explained by Storey (1992). He made the distinction between the soft and hard HRM approaches and describes that although both approaches to HRM emphasise on employees and consider them important for achieving competitive edge that has to be attained, developed and organized in ways that benefits the business. Soft version further focuses on communication, leadership and motivation and lays emphasis on people's skills, commitment, adaptability and performance (Armstrong, 2006). Organisations that have a mixture of both approaches tend to endure and grow in the competitive business environment.
Many scholars define soft skills as the skill to converse in both written and verbal forms and the ability to interact with colleagues and fellows in a positive behaviour (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006). The importance of acquiring or improving soft skills cannot be understated. No matter how good or strong and professional employee is, he can't succeed if his interpersonal skills are weak. Soft skills which are also known as people skills are usually difficult to observe. These can also be hard to quantify and measure (Web 7), unlike hard skills which are easily observed and measured. People skills are not just needed for work but also for everyday life as much. Lee (1999) defines soft skills as "intra and interpersonal job skills that facilitate the application of technical skills and knowledge". Soft skills includes a range of abilities such as flexibility, analytical thinking, ability to communicate effectively, listening skills, leadership skills, team-building skills, self-awareness, creativity, problem-solving skills, change- readiness and diplomacy skills. Soft skills can be easily differentiated from hard skills. Soft skills are the non technical skills which are often ignored while managing businesses. On the other hand, hard skills are the technical capabilities required for job performance. These can easily be acquired through training. Hard skills are the technical knowledge required to complete the tasks while soft skill is the interpersonal aspect of work place life. As described by Muir (2004) soft skills are employee's attitudes and behaviours while interacting at the workplace which effect the outcomes of such interactions. Many scholars often refer people skills as soft skills. Hard skills, on the other hand are administrative procedures carried out by employees which relates to company's core business. Some examples are: protocols of a computer, operations of a machine, financial procedures, safety standards and sales administration (Web 7). Hard skills are the technical skills required within the domain limits, normally consists of processes, tools and techniques. Although these are crucially important, these skills have to be considered along with the broader soft skills (Muir, 2004).
Soft skills have not been given importance in the past and have been of less importance in many technical areas but now in fast paced competitive business environment, it is a necessary feature in organisational development. It was believed that soft skills were not needed by employees as long as they can perform their job accurately, but now even in hard and task oriented roles soft skills are required (Belzer, 2004). Soft skills are more important than ever before especially in the working environment which faces changes occasionally. Businesses demand broader soft skills along with hard skills from its employees. Businesses require their employees to have the skills unique to their role at every level and field. It is deemed by Muir (2004) that all people should be skilled while participating in team projects or when managing conflicts. They must be capable in creating relationships to improve individual and business performance. Soft skill is an essential and effective tool for management and is necessary workplace requirements.
Employers sought core skills which are soft and transferable like effective communication ability and team working. They also look for other soft skills such as decision making and conceptualisation which are also vital for the business success. Researches on the soft skill importance signify the most important soft skill for an employee to possess is interpersonal skill, and then come written or verbal communication skills (Schuler, 2007). Demand for the acquisition of soft skills and reliance on these increases with the constantly changing work environment due to technology or any other reason. Although, soft skills are not a hard skills replacement, these are, on occasions, balance and work together with technical skills to unlock the employee potential for high effective performance (Banfield and Kay, 2008).
For years the management focused on hard or technical skills which were necessary to perform effectively. Hard skills are more jobs specific and more closely related towards the actual job being done. Today, organisations desire employees skilled in critical soft expertise (Mullins, 2007). These soft skills tend to be more generic in nature and key to effective performance across all job categories. According to Lee (1996) the main soft skills managers prioritise for developing learning materials are: people management/ supervision, teamwork, leadership, people related/ experience/ frontline, communications, negotiation, customer service, coaching, customer problem solving and project management/ organisation. Other soft skills required by management include decision making, presentation skills, assertiveness, time management, change management, stress management, decision making, resolving conflicts, diversify, giving feedback, appraisal, employee engagement, cooperating as a team member, arranging meetings and taking minutes. Good soft skills also include managers' ability to balance the staff individual needs with the commercial needs of their companies..
Soft skills are important for any organisations because these help individuals and businesses to achieve goals. These also help employees in distributing services or information to customers and colleagues, assist in effectively working as a team member, and inspire management and supervisors' confidence (Conrad, 1999). Many businesses put high importance on soft skills along with the core skills that are a prerequisite for most sectors (Web 4). Soft skills importance is obvious for many professions, customer service industry in specific (Web 5). The increase in service based industry and the shift from production/manufacturing work to knowledge/service industry has changed the nature of job performance in the business sector. As businesses become more focused on service oriented work, organisation's personnel should be able to demonstrate high interpersonal nature of performance at work. Normally jobs in the service sector usually result in interactions with colleagues, consumers and/or clients (Zedeck & Goldstein, 2000). Communication skills are the most important soft skills desired by the organisations especially by service sector where business dealings are mostly done while interacting with customers face to face or by any other means. Riggio (1986 cited by Murphy and Riggio, 2003) associate these skills with listening, presenting, verbalizing, and nonverbal communication. Hall (1979 cited by Murphy and Riggio, 2003) divided interpersonal skills into two categories of sending and receiving. Many researchers argued that the basic information sending and receiving skills represent key social skills. Soft skills such as interpersonal skills and communication skills are desired by companies, and these will remain significant for the employees' development.
People's ability to manage the soft side of business is now considered vital for making organization more valued (Muir, 2004). Organisations are not just assessing their employees, current or prospective on business skills but they are now considering them for their soft skills competencies especially how well they communicate to colleagues and customers. In most of the progressive organizations, management is looking for people's ability to communicate effectively and clearly, and also in their skills to listen and respond sympathetically. Companies also desire the employees to have good written skills so that their correspondence doesn't undo the good work they performed in face-to-face communication.
2.4. Soft Skills Training
Skills training and development of employees is the key feature of business and economic environment. Training raises the skill levels and productivity of employees and presents the expectation of better competitiveness within business environment. There are two fundamental categories of skills training: hard and soft skills (Armstrong, 2008). The need for hard skills training can easily be identified while soft skills are very hard to define and measure. They relate to individual development and are very important for successful performance of job. Soft skill training enhances the softer side of HRM expertise, knowledge, opportunities and skills of the employees. Soft skills training is concerned with getting a enhanced understanding of the ways persons think and behave. Soft skills training is vitally important especially for service industry as it offers consumers high service level and makes them feel valued by the company (Kotler 2003). To gain a competitive edge, businesses train employees in soft skills. Soft skills also assists the company to create positive relationships that work to involve people. Some types of training have both hard and soft skills components. Sales training for example, may encompass hard skills such as product knowledge and price negotiation, and soft skills such as empathy and listening (Smith and Mazin, 2004). In contrast to soft skills, hard skills are easy to train to employees because many a times these skills are new to the employee and there is no unlearning involved. Soft skills are not easily observed, measured or even quantified. Soft skills are not easy to be trained. The best way to develop skills is to practice doing the thing what an employee is trying to do, under the expert guidance of someone who knows how (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006).
It is believed that soft skills if properly trained can really make a difference between finalising the contract and losing it. It can either build an organized team or create inefficient and malfunctioned one. It can also bring a difference in getting a promotion or missing out. It gives employees a competitive edge that helps to create positive relationships among employees, with management and with customers. This results in companies getting more from people (internally and externally). Training of soft skills covers a wide range of skills, including assertiveness, persuading, negotiating skills, influencing skills, public speaking, presentation skills, team management and networking (Muir, 2004) (Beardwell et al, 2007) (Bohalander and Snell, 2003). It can help boost confidence and morale of an employee and helps in doing the job efficiently and effectively. Soft skills' training is about getting a better understanding of the organisation ways and how people think and behave. It is about presenting the company, its ideas in a manner that impact on the audience in a best possible way. Soft skills training is especially useful for management who manage a team of employees, as well as for people who interact with others as per requirement of their job e.g. front line staff, any business with customers and clients, anyone who work with suppliers and the people who work as part of a team. The interpersonal nature of the work culture has been comprehensively reviewed by many scholars. Communication skill is the most important of interpersonal or soft skills and most employees are not skilled in this according to the standards. Companies focus on training these skills by programs that usually contains a mix of programmes e.g. listening, writing, face-to-face communications and presentation skills. Awareness like self or social awareness, management of relationships, diversity and conflict management are some other essential complements to interpersonal skills (Buhler, 2002) (Drucker, 2007).
Competitions in the business world and developments in various fields like technology require the knowledge creation which in directs to constant development and innovation which in turn leads the businesses to focus more on training and development of its employees within expanding organisation. In today's working environment, the organizations has to specifically take interest in softer side of HR training of staff as its demand is increasing with time. Therefore, not just hard skills but soft skills also must be part of a training programme (Muir, 2004). The need and importance for soft skills and its development is important when there is intense competition for many available positions. Amongst many businesses, there is growing recognition for the importance of people skills, understanding that these are essential for a highly focussed successful business. Job skills are intensifying with the time and technical skills are no longer considered enough. Organisations need employees to have more relevant soft skills at all stages of organisational hierarchy Stoneall 1997). The organizations face challenge on training relevancy in 21st century's changing business environment. Organisations are changing their ways in terms of recruiting, training, measurement and definition of skills and adapting new ways and models that rely on current and future demands of the markets. Learning and training of employees can focus on different employment components as proposed by Lee (1996). Organisations can adapt different techniques of training for their businesses and according to their requirement. Some consist on purely of knowledge acquisition, many focus on staff skills development, some even focus on sentimental aspects of the employees and their relationships. Few activities seek to incorporate all the above discussed methods. Whatever method or technique an organisation chooses for employee skills training and development, soft skills remains the must have requirement. Changing nature of technical jobs and services and increased and services made soft skills very crucial for the survival of any business. Armstrong (2008) places a great importance on the design of soft skills training policy because of its significance of effects on the business. It is an important matter that requires close attention to the company's mission, strategic vision and ethical stance and strategic vision. Companies' policies and procedures must be aligned to the organization's objectives.
The organisation cannot ignore the effect of change on soft skills training. It is obvious that change in organizational structure and its culture have a direct impact on soft skills training and its requirements. Organisations need to train their employees for the accommodation of their new tasks and responsibilities. Changes in structure require the organization to promote improved communication and understanding of the accountability. According to Hussay, (2000), training is a technique for the business in eminent change. Training according to the change requirements provides organizations with adaptability, durability and flexibility required for growth and survival (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006) (Stewart 1991). According to Mullins (2007) there have been radical changes in the business environment in the past years. Organizations feel pressure in the face of increased competition to operate more effectively and efficiently and provide a good return on time and resources invested (Carnell 2007). With the continuous change in the business environment, continuous improvement is required that means continuous learning, training and development (Mullins, 2007). Ulrich (2000 cited by Mullins, 2007) mentioned the greatest challenge a business confronts is to adapt and adjust to change. The pace of change is accelerating. The knowledge and skills gained in yesterday will no longer be sufficient to equip a person for a lifetime. As an organisation has to continuously improve its performance to compete and grow. Skills training and development can create positive changes in both the person and an environment (Hawkins, 1994 cited in Armstrong, 2006).
The soft skills requirements differ from business to business and industry to industry. The need and of soft skills training has been recognised by many organisations in the past few. The soft skills are now a business necessity.
2.5. The importance of employee role in enhancing business performance and customer satisfaction
Organization's performance largely depends upon the employees that work in it (Pyzdek, 2003). They are the key resource and considered as capital for any organization. Management is involved in designing and applying programs planned to enhance the employees' performance in order to improve the organization effectiveness. It's their responsibility to group together employees' activities in such a manner which will encourage integration and cooperation (Haunchild, 2003) (Pyzdek, 2003). Management's role also include creating a climate of trust to improve employment relation, and organizing the company's training policies and activities in such a way that obtains better results from the business as well as individuals by managing and measuring its performance within agreed framework of set objectives and competence requirements. It also has to assess and improve performance, identify and satisfy learning and training requirements (Armstrong, 2006).
Employee relations as a phrase remain unclear. Employee relations are concerned with maintaining relationship between employees and employers that contribute to high productivity, morale and motivation. It is supposed to take into account employees work issues like preventing and resolving problems which occur due to the work environment and which can affect the working situations. Historically, the motivation behind all the research conducted on employee relations and satisfaction in the past few decades, was the belief that it influenced employee productivity and retention (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). Studies carried out by researchers confirmed the relationship between organisation's productivity and employee satisfaction (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). In later years, an additional issue arose: the influence of employee satisfaction on customer satisfaction in predominantly service oriented settings. There are many scholars like Ryan, Schmit and Johnson (1996 cited by Allen and Wilburn, 2002), Wiley and Brookes (2000 cited in Armstrong, 2008) and others researched and confirmed the association between satisfaction of employees and satisfaction of customers. It is believed that motivated employees with high morale who are satisfied with the working conditions produce satisfied customers (Allen and Wilburn, 2002). Employees are more productive when organizations value them. They will make more contributions will work more effectively and efficiently when businesses recognize their issues. If they are satisfied with their job and work environment, they will serve the customer needs carefully. Allen and Wilburn (2002) conceptualized the drivers of employee satisfaction into five categories: pay, work conditions, supervision, promotion and colleagues. Others studied four categories of drivers of overall employee satisfaction: the employee, job itself, the company and the environment. These have control or can influence the employee characteristics, thus work behaviours. As characterized by CIPD, employee relations can be distinguished mainly as a set of skills rather than as a management function or activity. Employee competencies and skills are still considered essential by businesses for attaining benefits such as performance by focusing on employee involvement, engagement and commitment (Web 9). Employee relations can also be tactical when managing business risk. In her research, Ostroff (1992 cited by Topolosky, 2000) proposed that workforce happiness and satisfaction improves organizational effectiveness. Businesses are becoming aware that employee issues are important and these can affect the business. Jones (1996 cited by Topolosky, 2000) noted that managers started recognizing that the company cannot succeed in achieving organisational objectives without the workforce focus and commitment.
Effectiveness of employees can be improved by developing a strategy and implementing training programs (Hoyle, 1995 cited by Burns, 1998). Employee training can improve employee satisfaction that may result in high level of service to customers. Not just offering quality service to customers but making them feel valued by the organisation (Kotler, 2003). In competitive business environment and intensifying organisational structures, hard skills are no longer considered sufficient. Employers need to train their employees with more soft skills at all levels of occupation. Now employees have to work in teams and take more responsibility. They are getting involved in decision making and problem solving. Organisations are encouraging them to work with advanced technologies. Demand for inter personal skills has increased as the changes occurred, partly because of reduction in the degree to which work is organised through rules, procedures and supervision. People skills are needed for everyday life not just for work (Beardwell and Claydon, 2007). Soft skills are also concerned with working with people. It is difficult for someone with under developed skills specifically interpersonal skills to engage effectively with customers and even colleagues. Soft skills for employees refer to a wide range of abilities such as ability to communicate effectively, listening skills, flexibility, problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, self awareness, team-building, creativity and diplomacy (Pont, 2003). Good soft skills also include the ability of management to balance organisation commercial needs with the individual need of an employee. Ryan's (1995) research has recommended that employees need to make decisions and work as a team-member for an organisation success. Organizations realize that soft skills can play an effective role in enhancing employee performance helping them to achieve and accomplish business objectives. Organizations ensure that people in the company work flexibly to the change response helps in communication and decision making. In today's competitive business environment, organisations need to be flexible towards their employees and engage them in decision making process. There is a great need for good communication and coordination between employees and employers and among employees themselves (Pont, 2003). Organisations are moving to informal work environment and encouraging more employee participation. Organisations are decentralizing their structure and improving their culture by empowering employees. Their involvement is considered an important policy by businesses and processes are being devised to engage the support, understanding and contribution of staff in the company as well as their commitment to its goals (Kitching, 2007) (Korczynskil, 2002).
Manager's role is very important while dealing with employees (Weighman, 2004). Managing employee conflicts, handling their grievances, and solving issues and problems between employees are few of the important roles mangers have to play apart from motivating and leading them. HR managers design and appoint employee responsibilities and duties. They also plan employees' relationships that exist with other members of the company. They are responsible to plan and implement programmes designed to improve the effectiveness of the employee. Managers' skills are very important when dealing with the employees' issues (Watson, 2006) (Redman and Wilkinson, 2006). Managers need good communication and negotiating skills to deal with employees problems. Managers can overcome the employee related problems and organisational conflicts by questioning, interviewing and interpreting employee attitudes. Managers can also prevail by developing and implementing policies and practices according to organisation's needs and to the character of company's workforce. It is very crucial for the management to understand and realize interpersonal communications among workers in the organization because it is the basis for all workforce reactions and it allows the manager an opportunity to develop relationships with the employees In the workplace without alienating anyone. Working with different groups requires an incredible effort of interaction (Watson, 2006), if this coordination is constructive, it can help creating the right workplace climate, employee attitudes, their beliefs and behaviours. To achieve all this, it essential for the management have the respect of their workforce. If this respect is not there, it will be difficult for a management to get things accomplished and done in a right way (Armstrong, 2008). The managers can influence their employees by being a good leader. A leader builds up his employees' abilities and skills by rewarding them with more responsibility as they become more competent (Watson, 2006). Developing employees to achieve performance becomes more significant when businesses compete qualitatively and implement work practices that engage employee involvement and team working. People work more meaningfully and participate enthusiastically in systems where organisations encourage their contribution.
2.6. Sales Training:
Sales training is given to those responsible for approaching and actively engaging prospective customers (Salisbury, 1998). Professional sales training and development can often be the difference between success and failure in an employee's career. One of the major traits of top performing sales people is that they actively and passionately engage in selling. Training professional selling skills of employee can not only benefit employee but overall company performance. Finding business opportunities and converting those into sales requires effective training and active participation from the employee (Salisbury, 1998). The normal process of selling consists of approaching, interviewing, presenting, negotiating resistance and sale closing. Selling is much debated activity and sales training varies in its attempt to satisfy everyone's differing views and theories on what makes a good salesperson. If the company understands this then it could be more objective in what training is required. Sales persons must discipline themselves to continuously enhance their selling skills and improve their performance (Karevski, 2005). Practicing sales techniques will increase your sales success and boost your income, confidence and professionalism. Training sales people assure the clients that the organization respect and value their time and money. Trained, knowledgeable, skilful and educated sales people add value to the service. Customers put a trust in them and they feel that their needs are better looked after when trained sales people serve them. The trained sales workers serve with confidence. They're knowledgeable and aware of market trends, industry and business environment. This awareness improves their ability to sell which increases the company's reputation (Karevski, 2005).
2.7. Customer satisfaction
Soft skills are also concerned with working customers; to attract and retain them by ensuring their satisfaction and delivering high quality products and services. Customer satisfaction is an important performance indicator and is a measure of whether company's products and services meet customer needs and their expectations (Hill, 2003). This is the reason why many scholars have constantly stressed on the significance of not only customer satisfaction but customer loyalty well. The companies should try to meet their customers' needs and wants. This is the reason why many scholars have constantly stressed on the significance of not only customer satisfaction but customer loyalty and retention as well. A number of researchers have laid a great emphasise on the importance of satisfaction of customers. Kotler (2003) defines satisfaction in regards to feelings of a person that results from comparison of his/her expectations and that of product's perceived performance and also in relation to other important factors. Hansemark (2004) define satisfaction as an overall consumer's approach towards a business that produces and sell products and provides services to its customers. He further describe satisfaction in regards to products customers bought or services they have received as reaction that is emotional, to the difference between customer anticipation and what has actually been received, concerning the achievement of some need or desire.
Customer satisfaction is vital as research by scholars proved the positive impact of direct or indirect customer satisfaction on organization's profitability. It is very important for an organization to consider the consequence of customer satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction on the business. Customer satisfaction is essential for an organisation to be successful because of its effect on the productivity. The importance of customers and customer service has been discussed and considered by many researchers. According to Scott (2002), consumers are the main reason of what an organization does as it depends upon them. Customer service is the service provision to the clients before, during and after an acquisition. According to Zairi (2000), customer service is sequence of actions to develop and improve customer satisfaction level e.g. meeting customers' expectations. Service is certainly an important matter for the organisations where relationship lasts for years and entail considerable amount of finance and materials. Customers' expectations are high: to be treated professionally and honestly and to be dealt with respect and politeness (Hyde et al. 2005).
The purpose of an organisations existence is to earn profits and pursue growth and stability. And this can be achieved by providing high quality services to its consumers, in other words satisfying their needs and demands. It is very important for a business to attract and keep a customer. If organizations successfully create and retain clients in a cost effective way, they can earn revenue while continuing to survive and thrive. It is of no doubt that organization's profitability is affected by customer satisfaction. According to Hoyer (2001), satisfied customers form the base of any profitable organisation as customer repeatedly purchase, they buy more often and do more business with the organization. Customer satisfaction also leads to brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth. Customer satisfaction is affected by many different factors such as competitive pricing, service quality, good value, employee friendliness, courteousness, politeness, timeliness, helpful behaviour, billing clarity and quick service Hokanson (1995). Customer satisfaction can also involve many different variables that may include pricing, lead times, responsiveness, reliability, conformance, convenience and professionalism. The weight of each variable can differ significantly by organisation and even across product lines. The largest contributor to customer satisfaction is customers; perception which the organization can't fully control. In the business of pleasing customers, perceptions are fact. Customer expectations are continuously increasing. Organisations have to continuously update their policies with the changing customer expectations and perceptions. Organisations also have to make that sure customer expectations are clearly met and their enquiries and issues are timely resolved (Cook, 2004).
Increased competition and rise in expectations of consumers have forced the businesses to constantly offer high quality services and improve the value of its clients. They can hold on to existing customers and understand to attract new ones only by meeting the demands of their clients and achieving customer satisfaction. There are few companies who are taking a slightly different approach as markets are shrinking and competition is increasing: They are trying hard to boost customer satisfaction and retain their existing current customers rather than devoting additional resources to chase prospective new clients because of high cost in attracting new ones keeping current existing consumers. It has been realized that it's far less costly to entertain and increase satisfaction of current clients than it is to win new customers for the business. It has also been accepted that there is a strong connection between customer satisfaction, customer retention and profitability. Customer satisfaction is therefore, a core operational goal for many companies (Armstrong, 2008). Organizations are more attentive to customer needs than before and
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