Stories about the takeover of jobs by machines are no longer science fiction, they’re daily news. From Wipro’s Holmes taking over the jobs of 3,000 people to Bank of America opening three new branches without employees, the new world of work is at a tipping point. Satya Nadella in a recent interview with ET said “There are many things AI will never be able to do... (like) show empathy” And according to the “The Future of Jobs” report, at least 4 of the top 10 skills for future will rely on communication and interpersonal skills. These include: 1) People management; 2) Coordinating with others, 3) Service orientation and 4) Negotiation.
All of which could be bracketed within soft skills.
A recent study by Timesjobs notes that 70 percent of the job seekers are not fully satisfied with the candidates’ soft skills. This article will outline key trends in soft skills enablement and identify areas that HR leaders should pay attention to.
According to Alessandro Giuliani, Managing Director, MISB Bocconi, a leading business school, most Indian MBA aspirants are not equipped to thinking critically and to articulate their thoughts, even though they may possess excellent technical skills. In order to identify the right candidate, employers have been using extracurricular activities like volunteering, sports and sometimes even participation in study aboard programs as benchmarks to assess the qualities of a prospective candidate. At B-schools, like MISB Bocconi, the focus is on providing candidates with ample of opportunities to showcase their team working abilities and also work on live projects during their coursework.
Within organizations, companies are turning to programs to equip their workforce. Niharika Jalan, Head – Training at Kestone points out that “Many organizations are increasingly adopting innovative and fun ways to keep the participants engaged. This includes; specific role playing games, gamified tools, one to one coaching and digital learning platforms”.
“While “Gamification” is an innovative and upcoming training methodology that will interest the young millennials, the same method of training may not be successful for senior management, ” says KS Saravanasan, Associate VP L&D Omega Healthcare, a BPO in the healthcare space. “For seniors, it will have to be more an outbound and scenario based learning followed by one-on-one coaching,” he adds
The role of HR
The key challenge for HR professionals is two-fold:
1) Mapping skills and identifying individual development areas of the candidate
2) Identifying programs that are in line with the organization’s strategy and culture.
Companies are turning to 360-degree feedback, assessments, and communication excellence programs to map a long-term learning roadmap to identify improvement areas. Other than conventional team building activities and capability building initiatives, companies are also turning to non-conventional means of learning. Jalan points out that this includes “Skill development programs using art-based tools, such as theater, painting, music and storytelling.” Identifying what method works for the organizations’ culture and demographic and mapping these attributes to the business goals is the next step.
In the end, the impact is personal. “If the employee is able to experience an impact in his performance KRA, it will increase satisfaction and motivation levels,” Saravanasan notes. HR also needs to play an active role in enabling effective communication that shows employees the value in embarking on a development program.
Need to start young
While graduate level educational institutions are focused on enabling these skills among candidates, both business and HR leaders, as well as leading education experts, are unanimous about the need to inculcate these skills at a much earlier phase.
According to Nina Nair, VP and Head - HRD (India and Latin America) at  7 Inc says, “There is a need to introduce and inculcate these skills at the school level as they need to be practiced over a period of time to become an intrinsic part of one’s personality.”
In an increasingly uncertain future, the potential to think critically and manage business change will be crucial and enhancing soft skills will enable individuals to not only become independent but will empower them to become capable leaders.
This article is written in partnership with MISB Bocconi
MISB Bocconi, located in Mumbai, is the world’s only offshore presence of Università Bocconi, one of Europe’s premier universities. Founded in 2012, MISB Bocconi offers Post-Graduate programs in Business and Executive Education, designed and taught by the faculty of SDA Bocconi, Milan, Italy.
MISB Bocconi’s key differentiator lies in the wide-ranging practical and academic expertise of the SDA Bocconi faculty; pro-active learning pedagogies include industry interaction, job-oriented internships, and projects to prepare students for global leadership. International exposure is integral to the program through the dual campus student exchange between Milan and Mumbai.