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Employability: Soft skills are the need of the hour

Employment is a serious concern in India. The last decade, however, has seen an increase in the number of industries like the IT Services, ITeS, Retail, Travel, Transport, Financial Services, Hospitality, Beauty and Health care. This has brought a positive change creating more employment opportunities. 
 
For a competitive edge companies are basing their initiatives on customer or client expectations. Companies look for a blend of innovative solutions and the ‘transactional’ services they provide. People today are better informed of the market and the options available.  Their expectations need to be met and the responsibility lies with each individual at every point of interaction within the company.  
 
There was a time when the BPO sector was thriving in India. Today, we see a saturation of sorts taking place. One important aspect that has led to this is the lack of quality in the service. I remember a BPO employee stating “End of the day the customer wants the problem solved.” Well, it’s not only that but importantly how the problem was solved. One could speak about the quality based on several parameters however, today they speak in terms of only one that comprises all.  ‘Soft skills’- The need of the hour. 
 
The talent acquisition team faces the burden of hiring people who are competent of positively interacting within the corporate culture. With several students passing out of various institutions, the recruitment team has one statement to make, “It’s difficult to find a suitable candidate”.  This merely indicates that we have a shortage of individuals who are employable. The growth in the number of students waiting to be employed versus those who could be employed, requires urgent attention.  
 
Educational institutions are beginning to realize that along with the academic qualification (the hard skills), students need to learn skills that ensure their employability. They need to understand this better and work towards being extremely professional. These are the ‘soft skills’ a term we hear more often now a days. 
 
Soft skills are distinct from the hard skills and is recognized as the key to bridge the talent gap we face in India today. It is an essential to interact with the clients and to work in a collaborative manner within the team. This reflects on the work quality and 
productivity. Soft skills are more to do with who we are than what we know. It depends on the attitude.
 
The hard skills may be the foundation to a successful career. However, they need to be cemented with soft skills.
 
Soft skills include an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, to be time efficient, to have appropriate interpersonal skills, to be able to analyze situations beyond the technical aspect and to problem solve accordingly, to be able to lead and work in a team and so on. 
 
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In this context an apt statement would be ‘To change history one needs to know history’. To be able to improve on one’s soft skills one needs to know what it means. 
 
People often use the terms soft skills and communication skills inappropriately. Communication skills include using the right words, speaking in the right tone, using the right gestures with confidence, understanding the situation, and who the receiver 
is, etc.. To improve on communication skills one needs to improve the language and be a good listener. Remember! Using words that entirely contradict the intention leads to unforeseen situations. These situations should be tactfully dealt with. It is a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced. 
 
This is where training and facilitation play a vital role. The ability of a trainer or a facilitator depends on whether they are driven by passion. They need to ensure effective delivery through role plays, case studies and other interactive methodologies with both groups as well as individuals. 
 
Change is imperative. We need to understand this and be willing to change. This would lead to a better tomorrow resulting in an improvement in the employable quotient. It means bringing about a change in the existing scenario and thus looking at the larger picture, contributing to the society.
 
Anita Peter
Anita Peter
Anita Peter is the Founder & Managing Director of Persona Script, a soft skills and leadership development training company. A motivator and facilitator, she supports, promotes and conducts motivational programs for women who have taken a sabbatical from work. Her strength has been her ability to connect with the audience. She won the Kerala state level competition for artistic and figure roller skating. She is a Mohiniattam performer and teacher. She has acted in two Malayalam films, several Malayalam and Tamil television serials and in plays. She has compered shows and programmes and modelled for several print ads and television commercials for popular brands. She was among the top 10 finalists of the Haier Gladrags Mrs India 2011.
 
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