Soft skills are essentially skills of a qualitative nature that deal with people-related interaction. Soft skills are different from domain or subject knowledge. Soft skills should essentially supplement domain knowledge.
Soft skills in the modern day can be of a wide variety.
Some of the critical soft skills of value are as follows:
i. Communication skills
ii. Presentation skills
iii. Team-building skills
iv. Relationship-building skills
v. Negotiation skills
vi. Business and social etiquette
vii. Skills in handling computers and gadgets
viii. Interactive skills
ix. Listening skills
x. Problem-solving skills
xi. Conflict resolution skills
xii. Motivational skills
xiii. Time management
Soft skills are achieved through experience, exposure, conscious efforts and right attitude. Services sector comprising banking, insurance, travel and tourism, transport and entertainment constitutes a dominant and fast growing sector in most economies.
This sector provides employment to a very large and growing section of people in several countries including India. The relevance of soft skills mentioned above is much greater in service organizations and government offices. Soft skills command value in all businesses that involve people-to-people interface.
People at banks, insurance companies, railways, travel desks, customer service centres and a host of such delivery points need to necessarily develop appropriate soft skills so as to make their interactions pleasant and responsive.
Each one of the soft skills listed above is acquired through conscious efforts. It takes great learning and efforts to develop certain soft skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution, negotiation and relationship building.
The right attitude, values, behaviour and approach facilitate progressive development of soft skills. In the staff training programmes of service organizations like banks and insurance companies, course content often covers the attitudinal and behavioural aspects as much as subject and product knowledge.
Any business has its share of leaders, executives, managers and supervisors. Their job is to guide people, build and nurture teams, motivate and persuade people, solve problems and negotiate deals.
As people move up the organizational hierarchy, soft skills assume greater significance. Leaders have to necessarily learn to lead, motivate, persuade, organize, interact, negotiate and listen. One cannot think of a good leader without the requisite soft skills. Good leaders know how to use a variety of communication skills effectively and in a result-oriented manner.
As John Adair has observed, ‘If we have to get results working with other people, we have to necessarily develop our abilities and skills in three inter-related areas of leadership, decision making and communication.’