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I discussed the lack of soft skills and the reasons thereof in the last post. As a sequel to that, I shall now discuss how soft skills can help in commercial success.
During the last few decades, most jobs have become knowledge-based jobs, either due to increased complexity, or due to involvement of technology, or both. The need for soft skills has also increased.
The term, soft skills, is now used in broader term and included social skills, analytical skills, planning skills, and organizing skills. Social skills further include teamwork, communication, adaptability, conflict management, and interpersonal relations. Analytical skills include critical thinking and problem solving. Organization skills include time management, inventory management, and project management. Planning skills include forecasting.
We can relate each one of these to corporate performance and commercial success.
Teamwork is no more a matter of choice. All work is so much interrelated and interdependent that it cannot proceed further. Teamwork brings greater results because a number of people push in the same direction.
Innovation needs multiple teams across functions. Generally, four major segments may be identified in innovation: the idea generating group, the technology support group, the data crunching group, and the project management group. Social skills ensure that the process runs smoothly.
Customer focus and customer satisfaction are two critical tools for ensuring commercial success of a corporate. There are great examples of customer focus in many world-class businesses. Baristas of Starbucks are trained to engage customers while serving them coffee and therefore Starbucks claims that they do not just sell coffee, they sell an experience. I would also recommend to businesspeople to listen to two TED talks: ‘The secret ingredients of great hospitality’ by Will Guidara; and ‘The search for aha moments’ by Matt Goldman. They recommend going out of the way to create such moments for customers. Social skills are the key to developing and sustaining customer engagement and retention.
Talent is already in short supply throughout the world. Talent should not be confused with education, experience, and unemployment; it is a combination of knowledge and skills to perform targeted work, and it is becoming elusive. The corporates are trying to attract and retain talent. A whole branch of HR management is now dedicated to talent acquisition, who search larger geographies to find what is needed by the corporate. Talent hunt, retention, and management requires high degree of social skills.
People remain engaged if they see that they are learning and developing. When the process stops, they may choose to leave. The process is mutually beneficial; people learn to develop into better professionals, and they do a better job to contribute to corporate growth.
Culture of an organization influences the quality of people who work with it, the environment that is available for the professionals, and the satisfaction people get while working there. Development and sustenance of culture is also dependent on social skills at all levels.
Values of an organization determine what kind of place it is. Many government departments in Pakistan, for example, are known for poor treatment to public, taking bribes openly, stalling genuine work to extort money, and doing injustice to the weaker. No matter what is written on their walls about their values, everyone knows that these are not their values. Understanding and living the value are also functions of social skills.
It is said that the total absence of conflicts in any organization should be viewed with suspicions, because conflicts are bound to occur when teams interact. Conflict management is essential and needs strong interpersonal skills.
Adaptability is critical for becoming part of a team. Even if someone has some reservations about some features of a team, it can be better resolves by staying inside the team rather than staying outside and criticizing.
Management is the key function that runs the organizations every day. A large part of management is social skills.
Analytical skills are not just corporate skills, these are life skills. Analytical ability helps us to understand and appreciate the nuances and finer points, connect the dots, and understand the actual picture.
Critical thinking the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. It is much talked about these days. It is being advocated and explained by public speakers, and it is also a course in management education. Critical thinking is directly related to analytical ability, and it may further raise ethical questions in various situations. It is part of analytical skills.
All research happens to do problem solving. The problems may be large, affecting the whole world, like climate change, or could be limited to a certain area, group, function, technology, or work. Research must follow unbiased path, guided only by the quest for finding answers and solution. It is a great soft skill which has the greatest contribution in bringing us to where we are today.
Planning and Organizing Skills
Planning and Organizing skills mostly are found together because they work well together.
Planning either relates to visualizing the future where it may build trajectories based on the analysis of past, or it may be done to execute certain decisions such as opening a new business line. In this way, it can both propose and execute new plans.
Organizing comes on the heels of planning. Every plan shall require organizing resources, human, financial, material, and time. Organizing skill ensures that the plans shall be done and done on time. Operational people must have both skills, but they are not the only ones needing it. Every manager must have both skills.
Commercial success of an organization is not a monolith single block, it is the sum total of many factors. Soft skills are among the most needed tools for success and happiness.
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