Hard Skills and Soft Skills of Employees
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Published: Wed, 13 Sep 2017
It has been noted that work is related to social context such as personal feeling and commitment. The skill is a key factor affecting people in employment and interrelates to the firm’s productivity and competition (Grugulis, Warhurst and Keep, 2004). There is a heated debate on how to define the “high skill”, in recent years, there is a demand shift from technical skill to ‘soft skill’, while in the past, soft skill is short and undervalued (Handel, 2003). The soft skill is related to social and emotion with multiple skills such as team working skill, communication skill, and positive attitude, motivation, loyalty, Leadership. As Beynon (1975) state that employers are more concern about what kind of personality they have, along with the increase in the service sector.
It is likely that soft skills make employees feel “intrinsic” satisfied with their work and get a job, but hard to define it, so that the criterion of the soft skills is under employers’ perspective, some also question whether it is a ‘real’ skill (Hurrell, et al., 2013). In addition, the soft skills are under gender bias which considers the emotion work low skilled and women-dominanted, the problem is the low pay, reward and job insecurity (Lloyd and Payne, 2009). Moreover, some argue soft skill cannot solely exist without ‘hard skill’. To explore whether soft skill will benefit employees, the essay is going to discuss both sides and provide the reasons in depth.
- Soft skills are important and advantage employees
2.1 Enjoy and high satisfaction
It has been noted by Thompson et al (2001), soft skill is related to human beings and almost everywhere in life. As the expansion of the soft skill, the advantages are reflected in in employees’ satisfaction and pleasure. As they have a high level of autonomy and friendly working atmosphere. It is reported that in the network society, the creativity and autonomy are the core for company success. In the service sector, staffs show smile every time to customers and they will receive a smile as well, it is intrinsic interest in the job. Martin (2004) found that, in the hotel sector, people feel satisfied because of the harmonious relationship in the workplace rather than the job quality, thus the social relationship with soft skill in the workplace is an important driver making people feel pleasure. Besides, as a manager of the Telebank call center claimed, the service work is people’s personal attitude from inside, another manager added, it is what you really enjoy doing from your heart (Callaghan and Thompson, 2002). Therefore, people often fully contribute themselves in the work. As a staff in the call center states, if they received a call on Sunday who would like to talk to somebody, and they will very willing to accept since they love the job. Besides, Deery et al (2002) found that the more time staff spends on the phone with a customer, the lower exhaustion they felt. While in airline service, Hochschild (1983) reported that staffs are told to be able to control their emotion and if consistent can be achieved, they will change their mood in depth and act as themselves rather than “surface expression”. Indeed, these works in high soft skill demand sectors seem highly joyful.
2.2 Job enrichment
For soft skills employers required, they tend to seek the people who are self-motivated, self-monitoring, and really enjoy communication and social. Since people get more active to talk through the communication while in the technical system, people are difficult to access to autonomy (Callaghan and Thompson, 2002). The work under social structure highlights the autonomy and interaction for employees when train and recruit people also allow the idiosyncrasy, hence, job enrichment is highly achieved and advantage employees with the right to control and self-regulated, consequently, employees may feel a high sense of achievement and satisfaction.
According to Warhurst, Grugulis and Keep (2004), personality, attitude, behaviours are important factors employers required which tend to be the personal attribute. The traditional view of technique skill is the most valuable assets has changed, in nowadays, if people without soft skill and only know how to operate the machine, they may be seen as an idiot. The survey on skills from New York employers reveals that, in the future, highly needed skills by employers are honesty, respect, and follow arrangement while math, computer and science are weaken (Warhurst, Grugulis and Keep 2004). The study indicated the increasing importance of ‘soft skill’ and predicts the future will be more jobs provided for the emotional workers while the academic skills tend to decline. According to Oliver and Turton (1982), even in the 1980s, employers seek to the soft skill but few people possess. Besides, Warhurst and Nickson (2001) indicate that, in the 1990s, there was a great increase in service, waiting and teamworks which advantage employees with ‘soft skills’ to fit the organization demand. Thompson et al (1995) states the ‘soft skills’ such as communication and teamwork are able to facilitate productivity, the demand is rapidly growing. For example, Crusco and Wetzel (1984) found body contact could make employees get higher tips compared to the staffs who only know how to clean the desk as a waiter.
With the improvement of the interview process, employers choose the right person by characters and the moral instead of qualification (Hurrellï¼Œ2015), such behaviours include reliable, predisposition, politeness and sociability. The form of role play, flexible chat and psychometric test all set in the interview procedure to discover the employees’ soft skill. Therefore, employees with soft skills are more likely to be employed. Employers think the work is both emotional and aesthetic which reflecting on a range of industries. If people work in a young and fashion bar as a waitress, it is essential to dress and behaviour well (Firth and Nickson, 2001). To further illustrate the importance of soft skill, in airline service, staffs should keep smile and enthusiastic to help customers, their appearance also crucial that even weight standard should be considered (Hochschild, 2003). In the restaurant, people enjoy the comfortable environment and homelike service such as the warm welcoming more than the food taste. Futhermore, the doctor should be able to keep a stable mood that will not influence the patients. The call center is another example where social competence is crucial, staff will receive massive calls and voice to voice with the customers as a high routine work, the sense of humor, the tone of the voice, patience and resilient are required. Bolton and Houlihan (2007) found that the discretionary skills also essential for call center staff such as telling stories, problem-solving, dexterity and work under the stress that based on a high level of interpersonal skills. In addition, Callaghan and Thompson (2002) state they recruit people base on what kind of personality and social skill while education is less required and measured employees by customer satisfaction. These cases demonstrate the high occupation demand with ‘soft skills’.
Selection and the Organizational Context. Handbook of Assessment in Organizations. Chichester:
- The disadvantages of soft skill
3.1 Gender bias
As the essay discussed above, soft skill benefits employees in kinds of aspects while in the meantime, the problem emerges. Sex stereotype is one of the arguments which may enhance discrimination and inequality due to a shortage of diverse skills recognition. Bryant and Jaworski (2011) state that, the skills related to organizational practices and linked to gender and class, especially in the service sector, it is unbalanced that a majority of staff are women (Noon, Blyton and Morrell 2013). It is believed that women are emotional, patient, non-offensive and more represented in soft skills work of caring, nursing and routine works. However, these are worthless and often linked to low pay, poor welfare and limited development compared to men’s work such as IT sector. Since the quality is seen as ‘natural’ abilities in women rather than skill which means they possessed it when they were born (Noon, and Blyton and Morrell 2013), thereby enhance women’s low status in work hierarchies. Warhurst, Grugulis and Keep (2004) indicated that, about 70 percent rise in pay gap of the people who hold the same qualification and the reward policies is uncertain for soft skill workers, besides, women still be overlooked in workplace. While Employment Gazette, (1992) reported that, the qualification gap between men and women are greatly narrowed in the UK.
Gender stereotypes can be explained in the doctor’s work which dominated by men, they are highly paid compared with the emontional work like nurse. The issue indeed benefits women enter into the labor market no matter how poor the pay is. According to Findlay and Stewart (2009) study, some people hold the view that, the emotional works are low skill, such as the nurse which is often linked with motherhood and affected under gender bias, while some argued that, the care workers are far more looking after children but also educate children, they may undertaken specific works which can be complex. Even though there is an increasing role of the nurse in educator, the knowledge of children development, qualification, teamwork skill, and interest in childcare are all important but often less recognized. Besides, The statistic from (ASHE, 2005) shows, their average pay is about 3600 pounds under national average wage and also less than men’s earnings. Moreover, only 4 percent employees feel highly valued in the organization. The evidence shows the gender pay gap and manipulation in emotional labor which is closely related to gender inequity especially in the women-dominant service sector. Just as Taylor and Tyler (2000) described, women in the call center have to be kind and enthusiastic while men only need to achieve the financial target. The work in reception desk can further explain the gender stereotypes, the work is often viewed as unskilled and just tidy up the paper, the data from a survery shows 80 percent staff are women and their career promotion are restricted (Grugulis and Vincent, 2009).
3.2 Employers’ perspective
It is thought that, the soft skill is difficult to define and measure, even the employers do not understand what is the real concept of soft skill and failed to recognize and value it. Thus, the ‘soft skills’ required are controlled by employer’s priorities and demand, also by their will, in addition, it can be changed to consist with the company’s need and culture. Warhurst, Grugulis and Keep (2004) reported that, working in the emotional labor market have limited discretion that their behaviours are highly manipulated by employers, including their mood, voice, body language, dressing, even their hair colour, thus, the appearance and behaviour all have to be fitted to meet employer’s need. As a result, employees may feel emotionally exhausted and finally leave (Hochschild, 1983 and Kunda, 1992). According to Hurrell (2003), in the hotel department, employers are using informal ways to select workers whose skills match the firm. Brown, Hesketh and Williams (2004) also hold the view that, the soft skills are local and permitted by employers, in addition, it is the discretion of the organization should introduce rather than the demand from the task, hence, the personal characters required and how they performed are distinct from every organization and employer. It may assume that employees will lose power and change themselves to fit organization and employer’s perspective (Taylor, 1998. p. 98). Consequently, the soft skills are random and vary with employers’ need, also lack the criterion to evaluate.
3.3 Fuzzy definition and value
In terms of the definition of the soft skill which is viewed as ‘invisible skills’, often associated with human beings and basic abilities, thus it is quite subjective and vague. As Littler (1982) state, it is narrow to identify ‘soft skills’ without organisation control and cannot be tested by ordinary paper assessment about how they vary in different jobs and which trait should be classified as soft skill (Warhurst, Grugulis and Keep, 2004), since the soft skills are flexible and change under various situations. For instance, the organization offers limited training on soft skills because they are viewed as transferable, such as personality which is different for everyone, it is intrinsic in people and cannot be teached, unlike technical skills, the view is presented by Callaghan and Thompson (2002). A survey from two warehouse shows, although the same labor force they have, the staff in the first warehouse are seen as lazy, untidy while another organization employers paid higher to the staff, the negative characters are disappeared, consequently, the organization gain a high financial outcome (Moss and Tilly, 1996). The survey indicated that soft skill may be decided by employee’s willing, and whether they would like to offer or retain, other than a skill, as it is related to one’s emotion, if staffs are unsatisfied with their employers, they will choose misbehave.
Lacking a deeper explanation for ‘soft skill’ result in the neglected value also unrepresented by unions, it is hard to find a suitable method to judge the personal qualities (Taylor and Bain, 1999). For instance, emotional work is undervalued in nursring occupation, a research proves that their work is considered as feed people, do some cleaning and tell stories while the fact is they also educated people. Hochschild (1979) described the soft skills as self ‘feeling’ and general skill. Furthermore, Callaghan and Thompson (2002) also deny the nature of soft skill and said even a monkey can be trained. One leader from call center believes that the work is kind of ‘common sens’e rather than skills (Lloyd and Payne, 2009). Conversely, some argue that it is a high skilled work which facing lots of uncertain and specific tasks. There are also some arguments about whether these traits such as ‘polite, friendly, patient’ are real skills (Lloyd and Payne, 2009) and the value of soft skills is still under-debate. What stands out in this part is that, the soft skills are unstable, employees may perform differently to match specific need even though their status are normally overlooked which cause difficulties for their career.
3.4 Insecurity and supplement
Grugulis, Warhurst and Keep (2004) point out that, government regulates labor market concern on the supply side rather than demand, thus the soft skills tend to oversupplied in the workplace. In that way, the value should be considered that when there is no hard skill to support, does it truly valued? Since it is widely recognized that, soft skill is the supplement of technical skills and use for technical skills. What’s more, the issue may results from the pay, some said if the pay is higher, the demand of ‘soft skills’ will increase meanwhile. Therefore, raising another issue of job security, a possible explanation is that, employees may face the risk of losing the job if they are short in technical skills.
Casey, Keep and Mayhew (1999) indicated, education is positively associated with competition and productivity, also crucial for technical skills which enhance the indispensable status of technical skills. While according to Callaghan and Thompson (2002), the product and technical are primarily considered while characters are something makes people different and use to improve flexibility. Hence, technical skills are still highly valued while soft skills are regarded as the thing everyone can do. From the example of care work which is considered as low skill, face the high threat of unemployment and undervaluation, their parenting role also reinforces the status of job insecurity (Tutt, 1981). Besides, employees facing insecurity in the form of part-time work especially for women, as most soft skill works are attributed to women who may have to balance the work and life, as a result, the emotion work not benefit in long perspective and do harm for long-term development in career (Lloyd and Payne, 2009). Therefore, the skill is supposed to combine knowledge-based theory with practice, it is likely that, mix credentials, technical skills and soft skills may be the solution to benefit employees in the labor market.
The essay set out to find out if soft skills advantange employees and used a range of examples as case. The research has shown that the demand for the soft skill such as co-operation, communication has increased to substitute the traditional rule-based manner and qualification focused recruitment (Brown, 1995). The investigation has shown the soft skills indeed benefit employees such as in finding a job and another finding suggest that, the emotion workers have high satisfaction as they do what they want to do and feel pleasure. In addition, the soft skills work provides employees more autonomy and multiple roles enriching the job. These results confirm the positive sides for employees. On the other hand, the result also found the probblem, first, the soft skills are gender based, employers tend to choose women in emotional labor market who are more likely to fit the job, however, there is limited reward and pay towards women, this observation may support the issue of gender inequity. Second, it is intertesting that, the soft skills are defined by what employers’ want since employers are confused about the concept of soft skills. Another important finding was the difficulties in how to define the soft skills and the value often be neglected. The study also suggests that the soft skills are seen as a reserve of technical skills result in the job insecurity for soft skills workers. It is clear that, both advantages and disadvantages exist and soft skills are still limited. The main weakness of this study was the paucity of detail cases, for the further study, the essay should do more researchs in the field work.
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